To make Cupid's job easier — and to help ensure the success of its breeding program — a Dutch zoo is letting a female orangutan help narrow down her possible suitors by looking at images of male orangutans on a tablet.
Zookeepers at the Apenheul primate park, about 55 miles east of Amsterdam, will show 11-year-old Samboja photos of male orangutans from breeding programs around the world, reports The Guardian. They call the experiment "Tinder for orangutans." (Tinder, for the uninitiated, is a dating app that lets users choose potential dates based on photos.)
If Samboja seems to be interested in certain males over others, that could help narrow down which males could be brought in for breeding. And it will help researchers learn more about how female orangutans choose their mates.
“Often, animals have to be taken back to the zoo they came from without mating,” zoo behavioral biologist Thomas Bionda told Dutch newspaper Tubantia, according to the Guardian. “Things don’t always go well when a male and a female first meet.”
Video dating is a thing, too
A similar matchmaking ploy was tried at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, Germany, reports the Washington Post. Two female orangutans were shown videos of potential mates.
A female named Sinta was paired with a male named Gempa, who she seemed to take a liking to in a video dating experience, but the real-life meeting was unsuccessful. However, Biruté Mary Galdikas, president and founder of Orangutan Foundation International, suggested to the Post that videos might have an advantage over photos.
“Female orangutans pick the males that they want by all senses,” she said. “They look at how they move, how big they are and also judge the strength of the long call [that adult male orangutans in the wild vocalize]. She might even like to smell him … I think there are a variety of ways of doing it. This might be a good first step.”
The Dutch zoo experiment sounds good in theory, however there was one technical glitch: As soon as Samboja was handed the tablet, she destroyed it. Researchers are working on a stronger screen so love (or at least science) can prevail.