‘Tinder’ for apes helps Orangutans find dates

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Contents -

HOW does a pri­mate find a date when they’re con­fined to an ur­ban jun­gle? Orangutans in a Nether­lands zoo may get a high-tech help­ing hand thanks to a re­search project that is be­ing likened to a Tinder dat­ing app for apes.

The re­search at the Apen­heul pri­mate park, on the out­skirts of the Dutch city of Apel­doorn, is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the emo­tional re­sponses of orangutans and bono­bos to images of the same species they are shown on a touch screen.

Bi­ol­o­gist Thomas Bionda said the screen could help de­ter­mine an ape’s pref­er­ence be­tween prospec­tive mates as part of a breed­ing pro­gram.

“We want to help our an­i­mals and maybe other zoos’ an­i­mals to make a choice,” Bionda said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “An­i­mals have to like each other.”

Bionda hopes that hav­ing apes check out images on a com­puter screen could help de­ter­mine the com­pat­i­bil­ity of a prospec­tive pair. In the mean­time, the pri­mate park has an­other prob­lem — build­ing an orangutan­proof touch screen. The screen in the pri­mates’ sleep­ing area was re­cently de­stroyed by a young fe­male called Sam­boja.

Orangutans, which are na­tive to In­done­sia and Malaysia, are among the most in­tel­li­gent of pri­mates but are con­sid­ered crit­i­cally en­dan­gered.

Orangutans, the most soli­tary of the great apes, spend most of their time in trees


HAPPY APE. An eleven-year-old fe­male Su­ma­tran Orang­utan en­joys a snack at the Na­tional Zoo Ape Cen­ter in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There are two species of orang­utan: the Su­ma­tran and the Bornean.

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