Orangutan Breeding-Just Not With Gorilla Sex Tapes
Adult male (left) and female (right) orangutans
By Joel Haas Feb. 11, 2022
This essay is based on the thinnest speculation and knowledge. I do not pretend to any sophisticated knowledge of the great apes such as gorillas, bonobos, or congressmen.
Talking with a friend who had worked for several nationally known zoos, the subject of sex came up in casual conversation. Orangutan sex, to be specific.
Zoo-raised orangutans, my friend informed me, are not blessed with eighth grade sex ed classes. Thus, they remain in a state of virtue worthy of the strictest religions.
Such virtue is a problem. It means the only course of replacing orangutans is from their rapidly diminishing numbers in the wild. A zoo-bred orangutan is also a good publicity and financial coup for a zoo, generating increased ticket sales, donations, and, presumably, orangutan stud fees.
But. First. The orangutans have to mate. This doesn’t come naturally (pardon the pun.) Young orangutans do not play doctor or ask if the stork brought them (“Don’t be silly, Dear. There are no storks in our jungles.”)
So, when the sap rises in adolescent orangutans, it just sort of stays there, syrup rather than seed for more orangutans.
Curators at a zoo where my friend had worked came up with “a brilliant idea” to put the young orangutans in a dark room while screening a film of mating orangutans. Maybe they just needed a film of others like themselves doing the deed. That should turn them on, so no popcorn or free soft drinks.
This was a greater problem than anticipated. In pre internet days, where would you even start to look?
Ask other zoos?
“Hi George, this is Carl at the Whackitlonger, Wisconsin Zoo and we were wondering if you have any…uhm…orangutan sex tapes we could borrow?”
“What!?” “No!! For our orangutans, not us!”
“None, hunh? Yeah, if we do find any, I’ll let you know.”
Zoo supply catalogues?
“Wow! Boss, look they have orangutan bedding, truck tire toys, fake vines, and fake branches ….rats! no movies!”
The closest anybody was able to find was gorilla porn. I can only imagine what the sales pitch must have been. “Incite your great apes to unparalleled frenzies of pleasure!”
The film was duly obtained and the orangutans duly brought into a dark room while a movie projector played a loop of cavorting priapic gorillas.
The orangutans were unmoved. Bored in fact. Can you blame them? How would you feel if you were forced to watch endless scenes of gorilla mating without so much as a soft drink and popcorn?
The movie projector fascinated the orangutans. The curators watched though a small observation window, helpless, as the adolescent orangutans took apart the projector and unspooled the film. Orangutans are tremendously strong animals so you can’t just rush in and start smacking orangutan fingers while screeching “Bad Orangutan!” It’s a good way to be quickly and casually dismembered (read Edgar Allen Poe’s Murder in the Rue Morgue for details).
My friend’s story left a host of questions in my mind.
There is a market for gorilla porn?!!!
Who makes it?
How does one break into the business?
What do people who make it say at dinner parties when asked about their jobs?
“Oh, I just make sex tapes for gorillas….Yes. Zoos mostly. I really don’t want to know what the other two percent of our market does with them.”
“No. No real qualifications…uhm…so you just need a large, randy silverback gorilla male and a female in season.
“Government documents? There is no specific numerical code for the job I just check the “makes wildlife documentaries” box.”
“We do our best to downplay government funding for making “banana porn,” as we call it in wildlife research. We don’t want moralists in Congress thundering about tax dollars going to subvert unmarried gorillas!”
“Orangutan porn? No, I’ve never met anybody working in that. Rather a niche market, I would think.”