Dutch Zoo Lets Orangutan Pick Mate ‘Tinder’-Style
If you think Tinder-style dating is past its prime, you clearly haven’t talked to the Dutch zookeepers who are using similar technology to allow female orangutans to choose their future mates. The hope is to learn more about what traits drive females to choose certain males over others and to save money and heartache on failed love connections when an orangutan’s other half is chosen by humans.
The program, aptly named “Tinder for orangutans,” is a four-year experiment taking place in the Apenheul Primate Park in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. The lucky bachelorette and test subject is Samboja, an 11-year-old female orangutan, who will follow in the footsteps of other primates who have used tablets to pick out a hot date. Earlier tablet testing with bonobos showed that the apes seemed to prefer photos with “positive stimuli” (much like humans) such as imagery of other bonobos mating or grooming one another (maybe not so much like humans).
Not only do the researchers hope to gain a better understanding of what roles emotions play in non-human animal relationships, but they hope to save a buck or two in the process. “Often, animals have to be taken back to the zoo they came from without mating,” Thomas Bionda, a behavioural biologist at Apenheul told The Guardian. “Things don’t always go well when a male and a female first meet.” Potential mates can be brought from as far away as Singapore and, sadly, will be sent back if no love match is made.
So far, the biggest obstacle is creating a tablet that is strong enough to withstand Samboja’s strength. The researchers have developed a steel frame for the tablet, which was still intact after some older female orangutans handled it. Unfortunately, once it landed in the hands of Samboja, who takes after her mother Sandy, also known as “Demolition Woman”—it was destroyed.
Once they can find a way for her to flip through photos without issue, they will collect data on whether or not the image of a potential mate is enough to ensure a successful pairing. Bionda notes that imagery plays a role, yet other senses—such as smell—are also important in primate courtship. The same is true for humans and online dating: you only get a real sense of your date once you meet them face-to-face.
Good luck, Samboja—many of us humans can commiserate with your online dating struggles!
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