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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
Dutch plan orangutan web dating
A baby orangutan at the National Zoo in Kuala Lumpur
Small gestures convey interest
A zoo in the Netherlands plans to set up a webcam to help its orangutans form long-distance relationships with potential mates in Indonesia.

The Indonesian orangutans are kept in small cages at a centre in Borneo, protected from loggers and palm oil firms operating in their habitat.

Anouk Ballot, spokeswoman for the Dutch ape park in Apenheul, said the Borneo apes had been short of entertainment.

She hopes the apes will now "meet and interact with each other".

The rescue centre in Borneo receives 30 new admissions a day.

A keeper attached mirrors to the many small cages, allowing the apes to communicate with each other.

Small gestures and facial expressions indicated to the keepers that the system was working.

Ropes were then attached to baskets and the traumatised apes could give each other food.

Ms Ballot, based in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn, says they are now hoping to replace the ropes with picture icons and the mirrors with a computer screen.

Although the logistics could prove difficult, she insists there is still potential for a first online date to turn serious.

"If they particularly like each other, I am sure they will also point that out to their keepers," she says.

She said the webcam films would also provide a record of the animals' behaviour for future generations.

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