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Daily iPad App: Pocket Zoo HD

Parents and educators looking for a fun way to teach the young ones about zoo animals -- and have a bit of fun in the process -- now have an iPad app that fits both criteria. Pocket Zoo HD (US$3.99) gives kids of all ages a chance to learn more about some of the animals they might find in zoos (or the wild) and even see the creatures in real time through embedded webcam video.

Launching Pocket Zoo HD takes you to a "zoo map" that looks remarkably similar to one of those that you'd find at a top-tier location like the San Diego Zoo. It has the animals grouped by biome on the map -- Australian critters like the platypus and Tasmanian devil occupy one area, sea creatures are in an "aquarium" in the center of the map, and so on. Tapping on the image of an animal displays informative text about the animal under a detailed photo, and tapping on the photo plays a high-quality recording of a sound that the animal makes.

In many cases, there are short videos associated with the animal as well. These videos are all from YouTube, so in some cases the soundtrack can be a bit annoying, but it's fun to see zoo animals in action as seen by the video cameras or smartphones of people at the zoo. The best feature, though, is new -- the ability to watch many of the animals in real time through zoo webcams.

Not every animal has a webcam feed, and for those who do, the feed can be shut down from time to time to give the animal some "private time." While the animals are online, it's a lot of fun to watch their behavior in action. The live cams feature a camera button for taking stills of what's going on, as well as email and Twitter buttons for sharing the action with friends.

Pocket Zoo HD is a perfect example of an app that can be both fun and educational, and the addition of the webcam feeds makes it even more of an enticing way for anyone to learn more about the animals we share the planet with. The developer, Tiny Hearts, also donates 1% of all proceeds to animal conservation, so you can help preserve wildlife while enjoying the app.

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