Zoo waste

Zoos are turn­ing the drop­pings of an­i­mals into com­post.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT - By MARC BEN­JAMIN

Zoos are turn­ing an­i­mals’ drop­pings into com­post.

FRESNO Chaf­fee Zoo’s waste is no longer go­ing to waste. Zoo of­fi­cials have em­barked on a new project to cart dung from ele­phants and other veg­etableeat­ing an­i­mals to a corner of the zoo’s ser­vice yard. The plan is to wa­ter, turn and age the scat for sev­eral weeks un­til it turns into com­post and can be used for land­scap­ing.

In ad­di­tion to sav­ing on haul­ing and com­post­ing costs, Chaf­fee Zoo in Fresno, Cal­i­for­nia, might start mar­ket­ing its end prod­uct later this year, of­fi­cials said.

“With all the talk we do about the en­vi­ron­ment, we want to prac­tice what we preach,” said Steve Feld­man, spokesman for the As­so­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums. “More and more zoos are start­ing to recog­nise and use this valu­able re­source.”

Tuc­son’s Reid Park Zoo do­nates some of its com­posted waste to a farm op­er­ated by a com­mu­nity food bank, where pro­duce is grown and then sold at lo­cal farm­ers mar­kets, said Jed Dodds, ed­u­ca­tion co-or­di­na­tor for the Tuc­son Zoo.

At the zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, ma­nure en­trepreneurs are sell­ing “comPOOst;” in Seat­tle’s Wood­land Park Zoo, it’s known as “Zoo Doo.”

John Davis, cu­ra­tor of mam­mals and man­ager of the comPOOst op­er­a­tion in Columbia’s River­banks Zoo, said the soil ad­di­tive is help­ing keep the land­scap­ing lush. And pur­chasers also say good things.

“We have re­turn cus­tomers who say they are pleased with how it’s work­ing,” Davis said. “But, I can’t say it’s that much bet­ter than (other) com­post.”

The money earned through sales pays for con­ser­va­tion pro­grams that River­banks Zoo par­tic­i­pates in around the world, Davis said.

Wood­land Park Zoo sells its Zoo Doo to the pub­lic by the truck­load or in con­tain­ers. There are 28 dif­fer­ent types of an­i­mals that con­trib­ute to the zoo’s pro­gramme, said Dan Co­rum, the zoo’s self-pro­claimed cu­ra­tor of “en­dan­gered fae­ces.”

Co­rum said the zoo earns about US$15,000 (RM46,500) from Zoo Doo sales an­nu­ally and also saves about US$60,000 (RM186,000) by not hav­ing to send mil­lions of tonnes of waste to the land­fill each year.

One of the nation’s long­est-run­ning com­post­ing projects is at the North Carolina Zoo in Ashe­boro. Over 13 years, the zoo has saved US$1.5mil (RM4.65mil) in land­fill and land­scap­ing costs, said Gin Wall, cu­ra­tor of hor­ti­cul­ture.

“We use ev­ery bit that we can get,” Wall said. “It has more than paid for it­self.”

Chaf­fee Zoo em­ploy­ees on doo-doo duty are mix­ing ele­phant dung with leftover straw, land­scape clip­pings and fruit and veg­eta­bles that can’t be used as feed. Even­tu­ally, they’ll also use drop­ping from the zoo’s ze­bras, gi­raffes and ad­dax to cre­ate the driv­ing range of 160km un­der daily us­age. It also has more space, fea­tur­ing four seats and a de­cent-sized lug­gage com­part­ment.

A sec­ond fleet of elec­tric ve­hi­cles based on the Ac­tiveE con­cept will be re­leased for cus­tomer test­ing next year in or­der to get more feed­back on the re­quire­ments of a megac­ity ve­hi­cle.

But when it comes down to it, will the megac­ity ve­hi­cle be a car we want to drive around all the time? Can an elec­tric car re­ally match the stan­dards and power of to­day’s com­bus­tion en­gine ve­hi­cles?

Well, judg­ing by the Mini E which I drove in Mu­nich, one thing is for sure – the elec­tric car is no pushover. It could reach al­most the same speeds as nor­mal cars, and it moved silently, with al­most no en­gine noise be­yond a faint hum­ming sound. And as men­tioned be­fore, the en­tire torque of the elec­tric mo­tor is avail­able from a stand­ing start, mak­ing it ex­tremely ag­ile and fun to drive.

I may not be a mo­tor­ing ex­pert but if the megac­ity ve­hi­cle is go­ing to be any­thing as fun to drive as the Mini E, then it is go­ing to be one heck of a car. Just don’t un­der­es­ti­mate its pow­er­ful torque ... In the fu­ture, all our cars may have charg­ing slots like this one on the Mini E for us to plug in at night, in­stead of fuel tanks.

Cash cow: Zookeeper Sarah Robin­son emp­ty­ing a shovel full of ze­bra dung. Fresno’s Chaf­fee Zoo has be­gun a com­post­ing pro­gramme us­ing the gath­ered waste ma­te­rial of many of its an­i­mals.

Zookeeper Kit Perry rak­ing ad­dax pel­lets as an ad­dax watches.

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