A Dating Database for Zoo Animals Helps Rare Species Find Their Perfect Match

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iStock

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.

[h/t BusinessInsider]

The Time German and Russian WWI Soldiers Banded Together to Fight Wolves

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iStock.com/567185

During the winter of 1917, Russian and German soldiers fighting in the dreary trenches of the Great War’s Eastern Front had a lot to fear: enemy bullets, trench foot, frostbite, countless diseases, shrapnel, bayonets, tanks, sniper fire. Oh, and wolves.

In February of that year, a dispatch from Berlin noted that large packs of wolves were creeping from the forests of Lithuania and Volhynia into the interior of the German Empire, not far from the front lines. Like so many living creatures, the animals had been driven from their homes by the war and were now simply looking for something to eat. “As the beasts are very hungry, they penetrate into the villages and kill calves, sheep, goats, and other livestock,” the report, which appeared in the El Paso Herald, says. “In two cases children have been attacked by them.”

According to another dispatch out of St. Petersburg, the wolves were such a nuisance on the battlefield that they were one of the few things that could bring soldiers from both sides together. “Parties of Russian and German scouts met recently and were hotly engaged in a skirmish when a large pack of wolves dashed on the scene and attacked the wounded,” the report says, according to the Oklahoma City Times. “Hostilities were at once suspended and Germans and Russians instinctively attacked the pack, killing about 50 wolves.” It was an unspoken agreement among snipers that, if the Russians and Germans decided to engage in a collective wolf-hunt, all firing would cease.

Take this July 1917 New York Times report describing how soldiers in the Kovno-Wilna Minsk district (near modern Vilnius, Lithuania) decided to cease hostilities to fight this furry common enemy:

"Poison, rifle fire, hand grenades, and even machine guns were successively tried in attempts to eradicate the nuisance. But all to no avail. The wolves—nowhere to be found quite so large and powerful as in Russia—were desperate in their hunger and regardless of danger. Fresh packs would appear in place of those that were killed by the Russian and German troops.

"As a last resort, the two adversaries, with the consent of their commanders, entered into negotiations for an armistice and joined forces to overcome the wolf plague. For a short time there was peace. And in no haphazard fashion was the task of vanquishing the mutual foe undertaken. The wolves were gradually rounded up, and eventually several hundred of them were killed. The others fled in all directions, making their escape from carnage the like of which they had never encountered."

Afterward, the soldiers presumably returned to their posts and resumed pointing their rifles at a more violent and dangerous enemy—each other.

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