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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


Wild Cats Go Crazy for Calvin Klein’s Obsession

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Keith Goetzman, environment, wildlife, cats, cologne, Obsession for Men, wildlife research, nature photography, ethics, Wall Street Journal,

Wild cats, in case you hadn’t heard, are quite elusive. But researchers studying jaguars and other big cats in the wild have a found a scent that the animals find nearly irresistible: Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men.

The Wall Street Journal reports that animal specialists ranging from zookeepers at the Bronx zoo to a jaguar researcher in Guatemala have deployed Obsession to attract and distract big cats. The researcher, Roan Balas McNab, initially worried about revealing the secret because poachers might steal the technique, “but he decided that spreading the word to other scientists outweighed the potential risk, particularly since poachers already use their own effective bait—dead animals—a tactic researchers’ ethics forbid.”

My favorite part of the Journal article is when they bring in the scent maker to describe Obsession’s appeal in language that would do any wine taster proud:

Ann Gottlieb, the “nose” who helped create Obsession for Men, thinks there could be a number of factors in the fragrance that wild animals might find irresistible.

“It’s a combination of this lickable vanilla heart married to this fresh green top note—it creates tension,” she says. The cologne also has synthetic “animal” notes like civet, a musky substance secreted by the cat of the same name, giving it particular sex appeal, she adds. “It sparks curiosity with humans and, apparently, animals.”

I’ve blogged about “nature” photographers who cross ethical lines when they photograph captive animals at game farms—but this puts a new nose-wrinkle in the debate. Would it be unethical for photographers to lure wild cats with a cologne developed to drive people to make sexy time, as Borat might say? I suppose it’s better than imprisoning the cats for life just so they can be furry supermodels.

(See the Journal’s video about Obsession-obsessed big cats here.)

Source: Wall Street Journal