To get this guy near the camera, a nice musky smell is best. (Photo: Juan Carlos Ulate /Reuters)
You’re a conservation biologist. You’ve devoted your life to studying the big cats—lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, pumas, leopards. But these cats, boy they’re cagey—stealthy, elusive, nigh impossible to track. Hours, days, weeks can pass before one of the camouflaged cameras you’ve set up to capture their movements is triggered. So, what do you do?
You turn to Calvin Klein for a spritz of olfactory catnip.
To entice jaguars in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, biologists Rony Garcia and Jose Moreira of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Jaguar Conservation Program sprayed Calvin Klein’s cologne, ‘Obsession for Men’, onto hidden cameras.
It worked like gangbusters.
"It has been very useful using Obsession for Men to get the jaguars in front of these camera traps ... and that allows us to estimate with greater confidence the genders and the numbers that live in each studied site,” Moreira told Reuters Television.
According to ABC News, “a whiff of the cologne, which has scents of musk, sandalwood and spice among others, can keep a jaguar's attention long enough for researchers to get a clear shot of it using infrared cameras.”
The trick of using cologne to attract the big cats was discovered by Pat Thomas of the Bronx Zoo, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Zoos have long spritzed perfumes and colognes on rocks, trees and toys in an effort to keep confined animals curious.
In 2003, Pat Thomas, general curator for the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo in New York, decided to get scientific about it. Working with 24 fragrances and two cheetahs, he recorded how long it took the big cats to notice the scent and how much time they spent interacting with it.
The results left barely a whiff of a doubt. Estée Lauder's Beautiful occupied the cheetahs on average for just two seconds. Revlon's Charlie managed 15.5 seconds. Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps took it up to 10.4 minutes. But the musky Obsession for Men triumphed: 11.1 minutes. That's longer than the cats usually take to savor a meal.
Garcia told reporters that results of the cologne-induced tracking will be invaluable to conservation efforts.
"These camera traps help us to identify how many jaguars are living in this area ... (and) helps us to have control over the population and lets us say to the government, to the public, that Laguna del Tigre still deserves conservation," he said.