Search Our Site

02-21 Enrichment for Humans: The Nose Knows

Follow Us

Ring-tailed lemurs learn a lot about each other through scent-marking! Test your sense of smell to see how you measure up against a ring-tailed lemur. Young primates – you’ll need a parent or instructor to help with this activity.


The scent of a ring-tailed lemur contains lots of information. Just by smelling, a lemur can tell a lot of things about the other lemur, like how healthy they are, if they’re an adult or not, and even who they’re related to! Lemurs need a very powerful nose to get all of that information from scent. Lemurs have wet noses, which are specially designed for smelling. In this activity, we test how good our sense of smell is.  


Cotton balls 

Different scents (essential oils, vanilla extract, orange peel, lemon juice, mint toothpaste) 

Small containers or cups with lids to keep track of the cotton balls! 


A grown-up (parent or instructor) will need to prepare the first part of this activity. 

Collect recognizable scented items from around the house, and apply the scents to cotton balls. 

Make two scented cotton balls for each scent. 

Then, place one cotton ball in a container and place the lid on top (that way you don’t smell everything all at once!). You may want to mark on the bottom which scent is which! 

The second cotton balls will be the mystery cotton balls, so keep those separate from the containers and from each other to keep the scents clear. 


Each participant receives a mystery cotton ball. After having a good sniff, they should go to the containers and try to find the match to their scent. If there is only one participant, see if they can match all of the mystery cotton balls to their mate!