'Match.com' method helps zoo animals find perfect matches

CINCINNATI (AP) — Zookeepers at the Cincinnati Zoo are pairing up compatible animals by drawing inspiration from the online dating website Match.com.

Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard called the internal matchmaking service an animal version of the website. WCPO-TV reported (http://bit.ly/2vTHQZl ) it's not exactly like Match.com — as it draws on expert committees dedicated to Species Survival Plans rather than computer algorithms.

But in pairing up animals, experts pay attention to traits like genetic diversity and personality to ensure ideal matches.

The plans are coordinated nationwide with other zoos and animal experts to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums.

There are about 450 Species Survival Plans, each dedicated to a specific animal species. And the method appears to be working with the zoo's recent boom in baby animals.

Most notably, this includes the world-famous baby hippo Fiona.

But Maynard said there are many other baby animals to celebrate alongside Fiona. "We have had very rare animals — three baby ring-tailed lemurs, three Malayan tiger cubs, a baby red panda and a baby black rhino," Maynard said.

Both black rhinos and Malaysian tigers are classified as critically endangered species.

The process is complicated. Maynard says the Cincinnati Zoo has a dozen people involved in committees that are charged with the matchmaking decisions, but it is vital to the survival of endangered species.