Wake up and smell the tiger

On those days when you’re fed up with your job, it’s always wise to remember that it probably doesn’t rank as one of the worst in the world.

Consider the folks who are currently developing a pest repellent based on… tiger dung. Indeed, rank is probably the key word here. Leave aside for the moment the issue of checking the product for, um, accuracy, (*Sniff. Sniff. Gag.* “No, Mike, we need a touch more half-digested wild pig in the mix, I think.”), there’s also the problem of collecting comparison samples.

Max: Right, time to muck out the tiger enclosure. Shall we draw straws again? Remind me, who got the short straw last time?
Bob: Joe did.
Max: Of course, yes. And why isn’t he here?
Bob: Because he now has a very short arm. And less than 10 toes.

Given the hazards, why is anyone going to the trouble of developing tiger dung based repellent? Apparently, just the smell of tiger droppings keeps things like wild goats away from farms in Australia — in spite of the fact that goats and tigers don’t ever meet in the outback. If the repellent can be proven effective over the longer term, it will be a billion dollar industry.

Of course, any serious gardener knows that the use of scent is an important tool in pest control. Dog hair, spread liberally around your vegetable patch, is supposed to scare away rabbits and squirrels. I can’t verify this claim personally; I made the mistake of reading this tip out loud once, and my dog made off with the clippers. She was muttering something along the lines of…  “I will *not* be made to look like a poodle for the sake of a few carrots!”

Hunters know all about smells as well. Wander into any hunting supply store and you can buy bottles meant to make you smell like a bear, a deer, a pheasant, or even a skunk. If you prefer all-natural scents rather than synthetic ones, you can buy a bottle of racoon urine. I’m not sure I want to know how racoon piddle is harvested, although I suppose those racoons you see in commercials and movies could be subject to random drug tests as part of their contracts.

It would be nice if scents for agricultural pest control caught on. We really need to find alternatives to chemical pesticides; especially if that something doesn’t involving having to introduce a foreign species. The cane toad in was brought into Australia to eat beetles that were attacking sugar cane crops; so far the toads have eaten just about everything *but* the beetles, possibly including pets and small children.

You and I might find a use for scents in our daily lives. For example, keeping an empty wallet in your foyer might ward off door-to-door sales people. Keeping a pile of coffee grounds at your cubicle desk might suggest to your boss that you are too caffeinated to approach safely. You could also rub yourself with money before heading into the bank to apply for a loan; after all, bankers never want to loan you money when you don’t have any.

Of course, there is always the danger that the ruse will stop working after a while, or backfire. Your boss might have consumed more coffee than you have on your desk and thus be able to ignore the smell.

The consequences for animals ignoring their noses are more dire; think of a pair of those wild goats in Australia.

Bess: Look Marge, I’m telling you there are no tigers in… Oh sh-!

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