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A Dutch zoo is experimenting with “online dating” for orangutans
Online dating has officially made its way to the animal kingdom: In an effort to increase baby-making relationships for the endangered species, a Dutch zoo will have a female orangutan choose her “preferred mate” on a tablet before they officially meet, the Guardian reports. The Apenheul Primate Park has officially titled the 4-year experiment “Tinder For Orangutans,” which aims to study how female orangutans select their partners. Researchers will show Samboja, an 11-year-old female orangutan, pictures of possible matches from all over the world, some being as far away as Singapore. The zoo hopes this will enhance the chances of the two primates hitting it off.
Researchers have conducted similar tests in the past: They found that bonobos, another close relative to humans, had positive reactions to images of their species mating or grooming each other. Not too far off from how humans would react, right? In a similar experiment at a German zoo last year, after taking part in the “video dating,” a female orangutan named Sinta found interest in a male orangutan in Belgium, reports the Washington Post. “For orangutans, appearances appear to be an important factor in choosing a partner,” zoo official Marianne Holtkoetter said in a statement. “Apparently, many females find the cheeks attractive.”
Obviously, this new experiment in the Netherlands won’t work exactly like Tinder—although wouldn’t it be cool if male orangutans could swipe right and send that awkward first message on an online dating site? Scientists have put things on hold until all the tablets are reinforced with a steel frame, since Samboja immediately destroyed the tablet the first time she handled it, according to the zoo’s statement. (After all, she is an orangutan.) Let’s also not rule out Samboja’s mom, who is apparently known as “Demolition Woman.”
Once the screens can survive the orangutans’ tough touch, the scientists are curious to see what happens. Smell usually plays a role in mate selection, the researchers say, so the world will have to wait and see if looks alone can get our closely related primate friends that first date.