In January 2017, zookeepers at the Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands began showing photos of male orangutans to Samboja, the zoo's resident female, to see if she might have a visceral response to a potential mate. The Washington Post jokingly called it "Tinder for orangutans."
Now, that idea is starting to gain some traction.
Matching captive species with a mate for companionship or breeding purposes is a tricky task. As easily as animals can warm to a new presence, they can also become violent, or simply have no reaction at all. That's why Samboja was allowed to pre-screen her suitors, and why a database called the Zoological Information Management System might soon be the standard in getting pandas, tigers, and gorillas matched up with their perfect significant other as well as propagating species that are in danger of being wiped out.
The ZIMS is intended to be a repository of animal records that were normally handled on a zookeeper-to-zookeeper basis. By digitizing them and making them available to zoos around the world, animal caregivers will be able to search a series of profiles to see which might look the most promising for animals in need of a mate. Medical histories, area of origin, and personality and diet traits are among the data collected.
Already, the service has led to at least one successful match: two Sumatran tigers were paired up in 2012 despite one being in Australia and another in Canada. The coupling produced two cubs.