Samboja the orangutan is looking for a good man, and like many singles these days, she's turned to a mobile device to find one.
As part of an experiment called "Tinder for Orangutans," employees at the Apenheul primate park in the Netherlands plan to show Samboja images of eligible males on a touchscreen tablet. If she pays extra attention to a picture or video, that's a sign she might want to meet the guy for some innocent fur grooming -- and possibly more.
Since Samboja's prospects come from as far away as Singapore, the zoo wants to increase the chances of dating success by giving Samboja a say in her love life. It would be a shame, after all, for some eager young ape to travel all the way from Asia to Europe only be to be spurned.
"Often, animals have to be taken back to the zoo they came from without mating," Thomas Bionda, a behavioral biologist at the zoo, told Dutch broadcaster NOS. And, as human romance seekers will attest, "things don't always go well when a male and a female first meet."
The researchers hope to gain insight into how female orangutans pick their mates. Tinder for Orangutans is part of a larger collaborative study of bonobo and orangutan emotions by Apenheul and the University of Leiden. Other parts of the study also involve showing animals pictures of peers on a touchscreen and having them tap a dot that measures their response.
"Emotion is of huge evolutionary importance," Bionda said. "If you don't interpret an emotion correctly in the wild, it can be the end of you."
One hitch in Samboja's case: While the 11-year-old showed interest in the tablet, she managed to demolish the screen by hitting it too hard. (The sight of that hunky Bornean ape probably got her all worked up.)
Apenheul says it's working on orangutan-proofing a screen so it can continue matchmaking on Samboja's behalf.
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