Looking for the perfect fertilizer for your garden oasis? You may need to look no further than your local zoo. Many of the world’s leading zoological parks are profiting from something they have plenty of: animal dung. Sold under such evocative labels as “Zoo Poo” or “Zoo Doo” this nutrient rich mixture of animal waste, food scraps, and landscaping debris have become popular amongst urban gardeners.

Griffith Park’s Compost Facility, Los Angeles. Image via City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation.

Zero-Waste Zoos

About two decades ago, many large zoos began reconsidering their waste management practices. The costs of hauling and landfilling several tons of waste per day was becoming a budgetary burden. And, more importantly, landfilling waste was not in line with the environmental ethos of the conservation-focused organizations.  New composting initiatives were born.

“Zoo Poo” typically includes the dung of herbivorous animals and other zoo waste, which is allowed to cure for several months. When the compost reaches a coffee ground-like consistency and has no detectable odor it is ready to be distributed to users.

Benefits of Zoo Waste

Users claim that “Zoo Poo” has many benefits over traditional manures.  Some claim that it deters garden pests like raccoons and deer. Others find that plants grown in the soil are heartier and produce more vibrant flowers and fruits. Those interested in producing a more natural garden prefer ZooPoo because the animals are less likely to be hormone-laden like traditional manure producers like cows.  Looking for great fertilizer?  All users agree on one point, “Zoo Poo” makes for a unique conversation piece.

Asian Elephants at the Oregon Zoo.

Where to Find “Zoo Poo” Near You

New York City Zoos, run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, provide compost to regional non-profits.

In Los Angeles and Philadelphia, the local zoos have partnered with municipal governments to include zoo waste in community-wide composting efforts.  Both cities allow local residents to purchase compost at neighborhood parks.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo sells compost (much of it originating from their resident elephants, camels, and giraffes) by the bucket, barrel, or truckload.  They’ll even provide the shovel.

The Oregon Zoo provides free-of-charge “Zoo Doo” five days a week.

Columbia South Carolina’s Riverbanks Zoo has a fabulous interactive website describing their comPOOst program. It is worth a visit to their website, even if you don’t live in the region.

The Toronto Zoo has taken their operation to the next level.  By partnering with a Bio-gas cooperative, the Zoo will capture heat, energy (providing about a third of the Zoo’s energy needs), and fertilizer from their animal waste.

Feature Image: A mother giraffe with her baby at the Denver Zoo.