Lonely Planet Writer

Dutch zoo trials ‘Tinder for orangutans’ to select mating partner

A zoo in the Netherlands has been showing photographs of possible mating partners to its female orangutan, Samboja on a reinforced steel touchscreen, in the hope that she will pick a primate that she wants to breed with.

Orangutans examine their food.
Orangutans examine their food. Image by Christopher Chan/ GettyRF

In an experiment that staff at the Apenheul primate park in Apeldoorn have dubbed ‘Tinder for orangutans’, biologists have been showing the 11-year-old primate potential mates from a great ape breeding programme.

By allowing Samboja to select her favourites, the zoo is trying to increase the chance of a successful encounter, whilst getting a better understanding in how female orangutans choose their partners. Orangutans from the breeding programme are often stationed in countries as far away as Singapore, so any help in picking a partner can also save time, effort and money.

Entrance to Apenheul primate park.
Entrance to Apenheul primate park. Image by David Stanley / CC BY 2.0

Speaking to NOS in the Netherlands, the zoo’s behavioural biologist Thomas Bionda said: ‘Often, animals have to be taken back to the zoo they came from without mating. Things don’t always go well when a male and a female first meet.’

A similar touchscreen experiment has already proved successful with bonobos, but so far there’s been a snag with Samboja: biologists are yet to build a tablet strong enough to withstand her strength. Samboja’s mother Sandy – who is also known as ‘Demolition Woman’ – destroyed the last one while playing with it recently.

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