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Poop Is Big At the San Francisco Zoo

by Brandon Mercer
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toilet, flush, water

(Yoshikazu Tsuzno/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Everybody poops, but not every zoo makes an exhibit about it, except when the San Francisco Zoo opened “The Scoop On Poop,” covering everything you ever wanted–or didn’t want– to know about animal and  human excrement.

The exhibit in the Pachyderm Building may be amusing, especially to the potty humor crowd of under 10s, but it explores real benefits from poop, including how animals use dung to build homes, send messages, cool off, and yes, even for a food source.

There are interactive parts, plus plenty of colorful, large graphics.  You can even listen in to an intestine, as poop is being created.

The name is based on the book by Dr. Wayne Lynch and Peeling Productions at Reptiland in Allenwood, Pennsylvania created the exhibit.

“The Scoop On Poop” opens to the public Saturday.  Some turd trivia you’ll learn if you go:

  • Good to the last dropping A company in Indonesia makes gourmet coffee by collecting beans from the droppings of the palm civet. The coffee is said to have a rich, “musty” taste and sells for $175 per pound.
  • Is there DNA in poop? Yes, scientists can extract DNA from wild animal droppings to study population genetics, follow animal migrations, and plan conservation strategies.
  • Do sloths really poop once a week? Yes, sloths live in cecropia trees and sleep 15 hours per day. Once a week or so, they climb down to the ground, dig a hole, and carefully bury their droppings.
  • How much do elephants poop? Elephants eat tough, fibrous foods and most of it passes through their bodies undigested. An adult African elephant can produce up to 300 pounds of dung each day!
  • How do animals communicate with poop? Many animal noses put ours to shame. Foxes and other canines often deposit scat on high places in plain view. These scent posts let others know who the fox was, whether it’s a male or female, and if it is ready to mate.
  • How many kinds of dung beetles are there? There are over 7,000 species of dung beetles and they’re found on every continent except Antarctica. Look around next time you’re in the woods – most parts of the United States have native dung beetles.
  • Why do doctors and veterinarians look at poop? Feces is full of clues about what’s going on inside an animal. It can reveal what an animal has been eating, how well it’s digesting its food, and whether there are parasites or other signs of disease.
  • Is poop dangerous? Yes, many diseases can be spread through the digestive tract and people often get sick eating tiny bits of feces in contaminated food or water. Outbreaks of cholera have killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
  • Who cleaned up the big messes left by dinosaurs? Paleontologists have found dung beetle burrows in fossilized dinosaur poop. They must have had an enormous feast!
  • Ever heard of a turd tossing contest? Believe it or not, cow-pie tossing contests are popular events in parts of Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The record distance for a flying cow chip is over 185 feet – more than half the length of a football field!
  • Why do trees make fruit? The answer is all about poop. When an animal eats a piece of fruit, it often swallows seeds which pass through the intestine unharmed. Every time a fruit-eater poops, it drops off seeds in a nutritious bundle of fertilizer and “plants” the next generation of trees.
  • What’s the world’s best fertilizer? The accumulated droppings of Peruvian sea birds, called guano, have been used to enrich farm lands for at least 500 years. The supercharged fertilizer was so valuable, that the Inca Empire guarded it and punished trespassers with death.
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