06.13.09 – The hand sniff! Mohan comes over to make sure I’m still the same person I was earlier in the day. Tigers love to smell things, and scent is a huge component of the way they interact with the world around them. This is very common for the experienced handlers at Cedar Cove – letting a tiger sniff your hand to get a whiff of your scent. After sniffing my hand here, Mohan shows the flehmen expression, which you’ve no doubt seen in your housecat. That’s the almost wincing look on the cat’s face after they smell something, and what they are doing is pulling open all of their olfactory channels to get at a particular gland that helps translate the odors into information about what the cat smells. Mohan is basically doing the tiger equivalent of updating my information in his address book – this is Cody, and this is what he smells like.
By the way, watch Mohan’s eyes – mostly relaxed, but every so often you see alertness come into them. That’s instinct, which is always present. This scene is very sweet and I treasure it, but never for one second think that Mohan wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity to get me. It’s not “him” so much as his instincts, which always, always rule what wild animals do.
I sometimes wonder what the tigers think when I have the smell of garlic or some other foodstuff on my hands from cooking the night before.