Tinder for orangutans helps primates find a date • Earth.com

Last update: February 19th, 2020 at 8:00 am

Today’s Image of the Day features the latest craze in zoo social life: Tinder for Orangutans!

In a program a Dutch zoo is calling “Tinder for orangutans,” a female orangutan named Samboja will get to use computer technology to choose a mate.

She won’t exactly be able to swipe left or swipe right on a smartphone like on the real Tinder. However, she will be able to interact with a touchscreen to choose or reject photos of potential mates from an international great ape breeding program.

The program will serve two purposes. First, researchers hope it will ensure more successful primate breeding encounters. Male orangutans are brought from other places to the Apenheul primate park in Apelhoon. Sometimes they come from all the way across the globe – as far as Singapore, in some instances.

When the match is a success, romance – or in orangutanspeak, breeding – can happen. However, if the orangutans are incompatible for any reason, the female may give a male the cold shoulder and send him away unfulfilled.

“Often, animals have to be taken back to the zoo they came from without mating,” Thomas Bionda, a behavioral biologist at Apenheul, said to NOS. “Things don’t always go well when a male and a female first meet.”

Researchers hope that a positive reaction to an “online dating” photo will result in a successful mating interaction when the pair finally meets in person…or in primate, as the case may be.

The program will also help scientists better understand how female orangutans go about choosing a mate. They want to know if, like some humans, primates choose a mate based on looks alone, or if they need other sensual information such as smell.

A similar strategy was used last year at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, Germany as a means of increasing the birthrate of the orangutans.

One of the biggest hurdles scientists have faced is building a touchscreen device hearty enough to be whacked around by a full-grown orangutan.

They reinforced one tablet with a steel frame, but sadly, it met its match while Samboja attempted to use it to meet hers.

By Dawn Henderson, Earth.com Staff Writer

Image Credit: Wilhelma Zoo

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