News Column

Dad's cologne driving him wild? It can do the same for Naples Zoo animals

June 13, 2014

By Katie Egan, Naples Daily News, Fla.



June 13--The Naples Zoo, 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, has been offering free entry to dads on Father's Day since the 1990s.

But there's one condition. They must bring in half-empty bottles of aftershave and cologne for the animals to enjoy.

"It's a way to get rid of the sins of previous Father's Days," said Director of Conservation and Communications Tim Tetzlaff. "It seems like everyone gives their dads cologne or aftershave on Father's Day."

The Annual Call for Cologne gives the animals new scents to enjoy all year long. Dads and their families will be able to watch the animals' reactions to these aftershaves and colognes on Sunday.

Tetzlaff says the Bengal tigers, cheetahs and leopards all begin to salivate and roll around when they find an aroma they like.

"It's like watching a domestic cat with catnip," Tetzlaff said.

When the animals first experience a new scent, they mainline it into a part of their nose called the vomeronasal organ and scrunch up their face. The organ detects pheromones, which are chemical messengers that carry information between members of the same species.

"It's one of the least majestic looks on these regal cats' faces," Tetzlaff said. "I almost feel embarrassed for them. Most people interpret the face as the animal thinks it's a bad odor -- as it's similar to the face we make at an offensive odor -- but it's the same face regardless of whether they love it or hate it."

The zoo used to collect cologne and aftershave for the animals from friends and staff members, but they also wanted to involve the general public.

"Cologne and Father's Day go hand in hand," Tetzlaff said. "So we thought why don't we get general visitors to get involved?" And with that, the Annual Call for Cologne was born.

Animals' favorites are Obsession by Calvin Klein and a scent by Mary Kay that Tetzlaff couldn't recall the name of.

Omnivores and carnivores such as Malayan tigers, South African lions, black bears, African honey badgers, cheetahs and leopards are more focused on smells while Primates are more concerned about food.

"They have very entertaining reactions that vary by their sense of smell," Tetzlaff said.

In past years, zoo staff sprinkled different scents around the black bears' exhibit to get them interested and curious about the new smells.

"They're foragers," Tetzlaff said. "We want to simulate their natural habitat so we get them to sniff out different treats and forage like they would in the wild."

Smell can have a big impact on the animal.

"Scents can completely change their perspective on the world because it (the new smell) is a totally different thing to them," Tetzlaff said. "Providing new scents creates a different experience and keeps them mentally focused." It can also charm them. One year, a Malayan tiger fell in love with a log covered in the Bath & Body Works scent, "Woodwind," now discontinued -- and rubbed against it for 20 minutes.

"Scent on objects creates new interest," Tetzlaff said. "Just like the outside of a book may look similar to us but the words inside make it new and interesting, so the scent on a favorite toy or in part of their habitat makes that experience new to an animal that interprets the world through scent. "

What: Naples Zoo

Where: 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, Naples

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Sunday

Cost: Dads get in free with bottle of aftershave or cologne, $16.95 adults ages 13 and older, $10.95 children ages three to 12

Information: 239-262-5409 or visit napleszoo.com

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(c)2014 the Naples Daily News (Naples, Fla.)

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Source: Naples Daily News (FL)