Wild Thing ~ Online Dating For Zoo Animals ~ Its A Jungle Out There
You Make My Heart Sing ~ You Make Everything.... Groovy
Remember that song from back in the 1960's that began with the line "Wild Thing... You make my heart sing"? That's what came to mind recently when I read that zoo animals are now being matched up with potential mates by using online dating services. The good thing is, zookeepers worldwide are having success with this method. There are actually little babies being born in zoos all over the world due to their parents coming together on these online dating services.
I bet they have less jacka**es there than there are on human dating sites... whoops, I did NOT just say that out loud! I'll behave now.... maybe!
Some species that were formerly threatened are now being kept from virtual elimination due to the use of these online dating sites for animals. Zookeepers who have used this helpful tool are thankful they have found an effective way to match up animals that are able to be potential mates.
There is a web page that is now being run by the Association of Zoos And Aquariums' Population Management Center that features thousands of zoo animals who were..."lookin' for love in all the wrong places" previously, but who now have a chance to find that "right" one. Some of these animals would have to live a lonely and solitary life without a service like this. It can definitely help to keep populations of captive animals going and can help to ensure survival of certain species of animals.
This is a GOOD thing. I just hope there aren't any animals on there lyin' about their jobs, age or their looks just to try to get a potential mate... just sayin'... I mean, if you're layin' around all day scratchin' where it itches, just say so already!
This database is used to keep track of the unique features of each animal and their behavior and genetics. By making sure that animals who are good genetic matches are matched up, this makes the species stronger. It's important that the genetics differ, and that there is no inbreeding allowed to go on. (SEE? I didn't even make a snarky remark, I am behaving! Not a word about animals keeping cars on blocks or monkeyshine stills).
The pages of the database are known as The Species Survival Plan, and they include information about each animal, kind of like profile pages that are featured on human dating websites. The only thing missing is a picture of the animal. The idea to get animals together in this way initially came about back in 1981.
Back then, most of the matchmaking work was done by writing information in books to be shared between zoos. The Internet has made things much easier and more efficient. There have been so many positive results from matchmaking this way, that this method is likely to be around for years to come.
In fact, new software is now being developed and tested in places like the Columbia Zoo in Ohio and at Walt Disney World. Something I didn't know before is that Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida now manages one of the biggest collections of "studbooks" in the United States. There are about 27 studbooks being used at the present time. The new software will provide faster matches and data that is easier for participating zoos to access.
In 2011, a pair of cute river otters were brought together using this method, and it resulted in the births of two baby river otters at the Oakland Zoo. Now it is expected that when the babies are old enough, they too will be mated and sent off to other zoos to live with potential mates to help to keep the species viable.
And at the Minnesota Zoo, trumpeter swans were recently saved from extinction. Trumpeter swans had gotten to the point where they were practically gone from their habitat in the upper Midwest. Now due to the success that zookeeper's found with the online dating site, trumpeter swans were able to be matched and successfully bred and are now thriving in the Midwest again. The Minnesota Zoo is just one part of a worldwide network of zoos participating in programs like this to help to save some species from certain extinction.
Sydney Australia's Taronga Zoo also participates in the program to match animals with potential mates. They are one of about 600 zoos worldwide that use the online breeding programs for their endangered species of animals. The goal of these online dating sites for zoo animals is to manage the breeding of animals in order to keep the genetic diversity going and to make the species stronger.
By using the helpful information on these websites, zoo employees are better able to determine the birth rates of the animals. They can also estimate life expectancies of animals. This helps them to decide which species need extra help to keep them strong and viable.
This helpful information about preserving species of animals for future generations to enjoy is also being taught to those on the outside of the animal cages looking in. People visiting zoos are being educated so they will develop a real concern for the animals and learn to appreciate the existence of these beautiful animals. The hope is that this feeling of concern will lead to action.
Some New Thinking About Online Zoo Dating
At the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in St. Louis, there is now a Contraception Center where studies are being done regarding online matching of animals. Zoologists at the St. Louis Zoo have questioned the idea of online zoo matching, asking about the possibility of offering these zoo animals a choice of mates and not just one mate. This is now being studied by these specialists in animal breeding and the study is awaiting funding.
This does make sense in a way, since animals do have a choice of mates in the wild. But, this would present some issues for zoos due to space constraints and the cost of bringing an animal several mates to choose from. More animals would need to go through the transfer process, which sometimes can be quite an adjustment for the animals and it may be found that this is just not possible. In addition, there would be the issue of males fighting with each other over the female that the zoo would have to contend with. Hmmm... sounds similar to a species I'm familiar with...
So far, animals have been doing fine with the one on one pairing that has been used with the current online dating system in place. Providing a "pool" of eligible bachelors might not be a possibility - now I'm hearing the theme song from "The Dating Game" in my head... sheesh!
So, the thinking has been that providing a choice of mates may not even be that important since some females may not have that much choice in the wild either due to the remote nature of the locations they live in.
My thought is that the animals will be fine no matter whether they have choices of potential mates or if they only have one choice. Nature being what it is, I don't think it's going to be that much of a problem. Maybe the funds being used to study this can be put to use in a different way.