How a designer perfume led to the capture of a man-eating tigeress

A female tiger in India's Ranthambore National Park. (File photo.)
A female tiger in India's Ranthambore National Park. (File photo.)
Image: 123RF/ondrejprosicky

Remember Calvin Klein’s Obsession? The fragrance sold in the 90s by artsy black-and-white adverts featuring close-ups of Kate Moss whispering the word seductively on some faraway beach?

Well, if you don’t fear not because while the perfume disappeared off the must-have lists long ago it still has an unusual practical purpose.

That’s according to recent reports of the end of a two-year hunt for T-1, a female tiger suspected of eating 13 Indian villagers.

A mother of two cubs, the tigress had wreaked havoc in the countryside around New Delhi and apparently developed a taste for human flesh.

The hunt for her had, a Boston Globe report says, “encompassed a heat-seeking drone, more than 100 remote cameras and a team of specially trained Indian elephants with sharpshooters mounted on their backs”.

“It became one of the biggest, longest and most expensive tiger hunts in India in recent memory.”

That’s certainly an operation that demonstrates the Indian government’s obsession with bringing T-1 to justice but that’s not quite the Obsession Moss was whispering about.

However, Obsession – the fragrance for men – played a pivotal role in bringing an end to T-1’s reign of terror.

According to the Globe, Obsession “contains civetone, a compound originally derived from the scent glands of a civet and proved to make wildcats go gaga”.

In areas where [Obsession] has been sprayed, cats roll around in it, and they take huge sniffs and luxuriate in the smell for several minutes
Boston Globe

“In areas where it has been sprayed, cats roll around in it, and they take huge sniffs and luxuriate in the smell for several minutes.”

After two years of exasperation and being outsmarted by the tigress, hunters had a “eureka moment” and decided to spray some Obsession and tiger pee in the area where she was thought to be hiding.

The hunters also brought along a tranquiliser gun - and some real guns - in case T-1’s response to the fragrance wasn’t quite as gaga as that of Moss.

The New York Times reported animal rights activist Jerryl Banait had gone all the way to the Indian Supreme Court to ensure T-1 would not be killed, and while the intention was to tranquilise the tiger once the fragrance began to do its dirty work, there was a slight problem.

Although the plan worked, when the tranquiliser dart was fired, T-1 stopped being amorous and got angry, charging the hunters, who fired the real guns at her “in self-defence”, and ended up killing the beast.

Not the outcome that Calvin Klein had in mind when he was trying to convince young men that dousing themselves in his perfume would lead to a fantasy make-out session with Kate Moss on an exotic beach.

Banait was horrified. He was quoted in The New York Times as saying the tiger's death was “coldblooded murder” but this accusation fell on deaf ears when it came to the local villagers. They celebrated by throwing parties full of fireworks and sweets.

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