Tinder for Orangutans

Ruben Baart
February 3rd 2017

After Tinder for dogs, there is Tinder for primates, but for utterly different reasons. Instead of setting up dates for dogs and their owners, this digital breeding experiment shows the female orangutan potential mates on a touchscreen tablet in an effort to increase her chances of mating.

Breeding programs often involve international partnerships and long-distance travel of potential mates, which are not always successful. That’s why the Apenheul primate park in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, has launched a four-year experiment named “Tinder for orangutans”. This form of dating technology is aimed to study how critically endangered species make their mating choices. "Things don’t always go well when a male and a female first meet” says Thomas Bionda, behavioral biologist at the zoo.

However, don’t expect the primates swipe left and right just yet, as orangutan's responses are way less gentle than humans, “after seeing the photos, the monkeys have to push a button on the screen […] In this way, we can measure their capacity for reaction” comments the park. The researchers are rather studying the primate’s responses in determining the pair’s compatibility, than observing primates using haptic choreography.

In 2016, a similar dating study with orangutans was completed at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart: they showed to two females video clips of potential mates on a MacBook through a window. One of the apes had a liking for a male orangutam from a Belgian zoo, which resulted in a “date”, but unfortunately the meeting did not appear to produce any offspring. Hopefully the next Tinder match to come around will do.

Sources: NOS, The Guardian. Image: Orangutan Foundation

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