Humans in zoo give off the scent of animal passion

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THE MEN and women of Essex have been blamed for everything from lowering fashion standards to re-electing Lord Tebbit. Now they are carrying the can for encouraging animal passion.

The owners of Basildon Zoo have discovered that when exposed to perfume or aftershave, lynxes, leopards and lions become embarrassingly lascivious, while primates such as the spot-nosed guenon are overwhelmed by desire for some monkey business. Staff have been banned from wearing strong scent.

Yolande Surcouf, the zoo's owner, said: 'We have had occasions when the keepers have gone in wearing aftershave and the animals have got a bit too excited. I think it is because of an animal extract called civet and a simulated version of deer musk which are used in many scents. These are similar to the smells which animals produce naturally to signal their attraction to each other.'

A notice warns: 'Would any visitors wearing strong perfume or aftershave please stand well back from the animals.'

At Colchester Zoo, Alexandra Burr, marketing director, said: 'It's the opposite here; we actually use scents to keep the animals happy. We'll douse some old clothes in Old Spice or something and hide them for the animals to find. It's just like giving a child new toys.'