Basel Zoo in Switzerland has been caught in a scandal that sounds like something straight off The Jerry Springer Show. A paternity test has exposed some rather risqué goings-on in the orangutan enclosure.
At the center of it all is the 5-month-old Padma, whose paternity test threw up some unexpected results. To get to the nitty-gritty of the story, her father is not who the keepers thought he was.
Orangutans (Pongo abelii) at Basel Zoo are part of the Endangered Species Program. This means staff try to match couples so that the male and female orangutans have as little DNA in common as physically possible to encourage as much genetic diversity within the zoo as they can. And so, 11-year-old Maja was paired with 14-year-old Budi.
Only the results of the paternity test show that Budi is not little Padma’s biological father. That responsibility lies with 18-year-old Vendel, the zoo’s dominant male who just so happens to be living in an entirely different enclosure to Maja.
The keepers suspect Maja has been meeting Vendel at the fence that borders the two enclosures for a little X-rated fun.
Unlike Budi, Vendel has cheek pads. In fact, he is the only one of the three males in the enclosures to sport such fabulously extravagant face flaps, better known as flanges. And, according to Basel Zoo’s website, female orangutans find fellas with flanges irresistible.
The team regularly test baby orangutans to double check their paternity, using similar tests to those used to find out paternity in humans. This is the first time the test has come back with a surprising result but there are plenty of examples from zoos elsewhere to show animals enjoy lives that are just as kinky and colorful as any human.
Last year, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, in Utah, revealed their usually-monogamous Gentoo penguins had been involved in a ménage à trois. (They did add that this did not come as too much as a surprise – monogamy and fidelity are not necessarily conditional for penguins.) And Odense Zoo in Denmark saw chaos when one cheeky couple kidnapped another’s chick.
Let’s hope, for Padma’s sake, Maja, Budi, and Vendel can get past this sticky affair and live happily as one big modern family.
[H/T: Basel Zoo]
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