How would you go about catching a killer cat? A spritz of Calvin Klein's Obsession cologne probably isn't high on your list but that is exactly how wildlife authorities are thinking of capturing a man-hunting tigress in Maharashtra State, India.
T-1 has been accused of killing 13 people in and around the Indian town of Pandharkawada over the past six months but authorities haven't been able to track her down. Attempts so far have involved sharpshooters, jeeps, and camera traps as well as jungle-clearing bulldozers, thermal imagery drones, and an army of soldiers combing the woods on foot. They even employed five Indian elephants, hoping that veterinarians riding the animals could encircle the tiger and dart her. But still to no avail. (That last plan backfired and tragically resulted in the death of another villager.)
Now, they are considering something a little more imaginative – though Sunil Limaye, a wildlife official involved in the hunt, has said they are still considering whether or not to actually go through with the plan, The Guardian reports.
The scheme involves men's fragrance Calvin Klein's Obsession. Why Calvin Klein? It contains a pheromone called civetone, first derived from the glands of a nocturnal cat-like mammal called a civet though now most often made synthetically. The compound, with its musky odor, is one of the world's oldest perfume ingredients and just so happens to be totally enthralling to big cats. The smell acts as a territorial mark. Animals are drawn to the scent and then proceed to rub it to replace it with their own, Miguel Ordeñana, a biologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, told Scientific American in 2013.
Obsession's feline appeal was confirmed in 2003 when a curator at New York's Bronx Zoo tested the effects of 23 perfumes on two cheetahs. Estée Lauder’s Beautiful performed the worst, distracting them for a mere two seconds. Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps did well, keeping the cats preoccupied for 10.4 minutes but Obsession did the best. The cheetahs literally obsessed over the scent, spending an average of 11.1 minutes inspecting the fragrance. Since then, the cologne has been used by wildlife authorities to encourage wild cats to spend more time close to cameras and sightings have increased threefold.
If wildlife officials do decide to go ahead with the plan, let's hope it works because T-1 is running short on lives. Last month, India's Supreme Court ruled rangers should do all in their power to catch T-1 (a mother to two cubs) and place her in a zoo or wildlife refuge. If they can't, however, the judge has granted permission to kill the tigress.
While human-tiger confrontations in India are increasing, largely because of the success of conservation programs, they are still extremely rare. Between April 2014 and May 2017, tigers were responsible for 92 deaths. In comparison, elephants killed 1,052.
Instead, tigers usually prey on animals like deer. It is highly unusual for tigers to become man-eaters, Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, a hunter, told The New York Times, but as levels of traditional prey decline and contact with humans increases, an individual tiger may develop a preference for human flesh. It is sweeter due to the ginger, salt, and spices in the human diet, Khan added.