Peace and Poo, Dan.
The prince of poo, Dan.
Take care, Margaret.
The #1 of #2, Dan.
See you soon, Margaret.
Puttin the BS in bedspread, Dan.
Curator of Endangered Feces, Dan.
And so went my email correspondence to set up an appointment with Dan Corum – aka Dr. Doo at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Dan runs the zoo’s Zoo Doo program, which began in 1984. Feces from all non-primate herbivores in the park, as well as hay and bedding from animal areas, are collected and brought to a back lot in the zoo for composting.
Dan agreed to take us around and show us the operation. After we found our way into the zoo’s employee parking lot (we are getting the high class treatment, people!) Dan came out to greet us. My first thought was that he looked like the Einstein of composting – his name badge slightly askew, but spry on his feet and ready for action.
Dan considers himself an animal keeper for the zoo’s smallest animals – the microbes that love chompin poo. The materials he gets take 6 months to decompose into high quality compost that is then sold, via the biannual fecal fest lottery, to individuals who want to buy. Though the program produces ~1million lbs of compost a year, they still can’t keep up with demand – Dan said around 1,200 people entered the fecal fest lottery this spring and around 300 were able to get a load (I know Phil’s mom would kill for some of this stuff…!).
From what we’ve heard, 6 months is on the longer end for compost cooking times. The bacteria and other critters heat the piles to 150+ degrees during their feeding fest. This has the added benefit of roasting out all the pathogens from the feces making a nice sanitary product.
The program produces 800 cubic yards of compost annually, accounting for an even larger volume of incoming material as it cooks down a lot while composting. We asked Dan what he thought other zoos did with their animal feces. At least 20 other zoos (and maybe many more) around the country have similar composting programs. The Denver zoo even claims to power a poomobile off the stuff.
The zoo estimates that the program saves them around $60,000 in disposal costs. In addition to this, they make between $15,000 and $30,000 from sales each year. So while it’s not yet running the zoo, the program does support itself, and generates some benefits that are a lot harder to count – water and energy savings, community education and involvement, and healthier soils for gardeners around Seattle.
You get ’em, Shaka!