Somewhere in the lush Pandharkawada forests of Maharashtra, a team of forest officials, on the advice of experts, are spraying very expensive cologne on cloth near camera traps in the hope of luring an elusive tigress.
Currently, over 100 personnel have been stationed to capture the five-year-old tigress, known as T1, which has been controversially linked to the deaths of 13 villagers in the past year.
Amidst the chaos and opposition to the operation to kill the tigress, also called Avni, a novel experiment is being undertaken: luring the tigress using Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men. Sunil Limaye, Additional Principal Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), who is coordinating the exercise, says the experiment started on Tuesday night with spraying of cologne in certain places where the tigress had been last spotted.
Tracing the tigress has been difficult, and a camera trap image earlier this week put its location somewhere near Sawarkheda village. “But it would have walked at least four kilometres after that,” said a senior forest department official.
The experiment has been devised by wildlife veterinarian Dr. Prayag H.S., who pitched the idea to the forest department.
He explained that the perfume has chemicals that mimic civetone, a pheromone secreted by civets, which could possibly attract the tigress or its cubs. This, he said, formed the first hurdle for the experiment, since only fakes could be obtained in India, while the original (nearly ₹6,000 for a bottle with sprays that last for eight hours) needed to be bought from abroad.
The idea stems from a 2003 experiment in Bronx Zoo where researcher Pat Thomas tested 24 perfumes on cheetahs to gauge whether the scent can kept them curious and engaged.
In 2015, Dr. Prayag brought the idea to the country, and using the cologne, managed to trap a leopard in Mandya in Karnataka, and a year later, to capture a tiger in Gudalur in Tamil Nadu. In Gudalur, the tiger had come to the bed sprayed with CK’s Obsession, rather than the other four test beds.
He, however, cautioned that this was just an experiment, with no real guarantees of luring the tigress for tranquillisation.