Jungle Love 2.0

Meet the Houston Zoo's online dating, "Cougar" tiger: Hana likes them young & fierce

Meet the Houston Zoo's online dating, "Cougar" tiger: Hana likes them young & fierce

Houston_Zoo_Hana_tiger
Watch out, Baram, she'll chew you up. Courtesy of Houston Zoo
Cougar Town
Courtney Cox has nothing on the Houston Zoo's Hana.
Houston Zoo hana tiger
A cougar on the prowl, or a lady in love? Courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston_Zoo_Hana_tiger
Cougar Town
Houston Zoo hana tiger

In other social circles, a five-year age difference between paramours might be snickerworthy, but generally negligible.

But in the animal kingdom, it can be downright scandalous.

Enter Hana, a diminuitive 11-year-old Malayan tigress. She relocated from Houston to Lufkin on Tuesday to be with the hunky big cat of her dreams — six-year-old Baram.

Robbing the cradle, are we, Hana? Perhaps. But before you go labeling Hana a cougar, you should know that she was matched with her true love fair and square — online.

"All tigers in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are managed by a Species Survival Plan," said Hollie Colahan, carnivore coordinator at the Houston Zoo.

The goal of a Species Survival Plan is to "manage and conserve a select and typically threatened or endangered species population." Which, in essence, turns animal specialists like Colahan into matchmakers.

"A group looks at all tigers in captivity, and matches them up to diversify the captive tiger population," Colahan explained.

All managed by — you guessed it — computer technology.

But this is no Match.com. These carnivores aren't looking for a few casual dates and a drunken hook-up here and there. This is the eHarmony of the almost-extinct species set — with the intent to procreate.

"We're trying to capture as much of the genepool in the wild as possible, based on how represented you are," Colahan said. "If lots of your brothers, sisters and other relatives were reproductively successful, then we won't be looking to you to breed."

But such isn't the case for Hana and Baram. It looks like their relatives haven't been doing enough catting around to save the species, and cyber matchmaking determined that it was time for the tigers to get it on in the boom boom room.

So, digital profiles were created for Hana and Baram on the Species Survival Plan program. We aren't sure if it was their mutual affinity for raw meat or their penchant for long naps in the jungle that eventually sealed the deal, but before you knew it, the program had made recommendations, and the two were deemed a good match.

"An 11-year-old isn't considered old," Colahan said, when asked if Hana was past her prime for breeding. "[The Species Survival Plan program group] may have wanted to breed her a long time ago, but there was no good match for her." Proving yet again that Aaliyah's thinly veiled ode to R. Kelly rings true — age ain't nothin' but a number after all.

Will Baram be Hana's baby daddy, or could something more blossom between the two?

"She could be there indefinitely," Colahan said. "They're working cooperatively for the good of the species, so she could be moving around. Every year there's a meeting, and they'll evaluate whether she'll remain with the same male or if she could be switching partners."

Hana, swinging at such an advanced age? Rawr.

For now, we'll have to wait to see if true love blossoms between Hana and Baram. It'll be 30 days before any magic happens, as she's in quarantine for the next month while she gets prepped and ready to bear a successor to Baram's throne.

If only all dating customs took cues from the wildlife, eh?