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Scientists Have Costumes Too, And They’re Just As Creepy

The panda suit is even worse than it looks, though it’s for a good reason.

That’s a caretaker at the Wolong Nature Reserve in China’s Sichuan Province. He’s wearing a panda costume to minimize the human attachment precious panda cubs may make, and to reduce stress on the animal. Carefully rearing pandas is important work, as the wild population has dwindled to less than 2,000 individuals.

Oh, and the caretakers also sprinkle themselves with panda poop and pee to mask their scents.

How do you test the fear-flight responses of wild reindeer? Sneak up on them dressed as a polar bear and see what happens. That’s precisely what Norwegian researchers recently did:


Turns out that if you dress up as a polar bear, reindeer will scatter at a much greater distance from you than if you look like a plain old human in dark clothes. The results suggest that the interaction between the two species has primed reindeer to pick up on specific characteristics of their predators, but not so specific that we can’t spook them. The research won an (in)famous Ig Nobel prize earlier this year.

Scientists’ costumes don’t always have to be scary:


Apparently, pandas and birds are pretty impressionable. Above, caretakers from the American Eagle Foundation feed a rescued bald eaglet with a puppet. (You can call a baby eagle an “eaglet.” Have fun weaving that into a sentence today.) Again, this trickery minimizes any “imprinting” that humans might have on the impressionable eaglet, hopefully better preparing it for a return to the wild.

And when you can’t dress up like an animal, make an animal robot!


That’s a crocodile robot — a crocobot. Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute developed the crocobot to measure the water quality of Kenyan rivers. Apparently, enough hippos poop into these rivers that fish downstream can start dying from the concentrated defecation. Not as spooky, but practical.



Kyle Hill is the Science Editor of Nerdist Industries. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

IMAGES: Ami Vitale, M. Kardel, Al Cecere, Carnegie Mellon University

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