October 31, 2006
Miami Zoo Hosts Poop Exhibit
MIAMI -- Meadow muffins. Guano. Feces. Solid waste. Caca. The words for poop are endless, but the Miami Metrozoo has another term to add to the list: educational.
Now on display is a 5,000-square-foot exhibit on excrement titled "The Scoop on Poop," which invites visitors to explore the science of scat. The exhibit is filled with photos of animals in some of their most indelicate moments. Stool sample models abound: haylike football-sized balls (elephant), kidney-bean-looking pellets (porcupine) and coallike lumps coated with fur (black bear).
Beyond the "ick" factor, however, zoo officials and the exhibit's creators say there is a lot of information being imparted. Visitors can smell the stench of flowers that mimic dung to attract flies for pollination. Videos include one of a hippo spreading its droppings around to mark its territory. Simple games include "Who Dung It?"
"We didn't want this to be a gross exhibit for shock value," said Chad Peeling, who helped create the display. "Our goal with the exhibit was to make people think, kids especially, about the science in all aspects in life and this thing that adults don't like to talk about."
Miami is the exhibit's second stop after opening at a Virginia museum in May. Created by Clyde Peeling's Reptiland - whose namesake is Chad Peeling's father - in Allenwood, Pa., it is based on a 2001 book of the same name. After the exhibit closes at the Metrozoo in January, it will make stops in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Redding, Calif.
The exhibit is not the first to feature feces, however. An exhibit called "All the Poop" toured Japan in 2001 and another in England showcased scat samples.
On a recent afternoon one woman cheered "go, go, go" as two children raced model dung beetles at a station in the Miami exhibit. Students on a class trip posed in a cutout of a person sitting in an outhouse. Others examined slides of parasites found in dung using a microscope, while classmates weighed themselves on a scale designed to tell them how long it takes an elephant to poop their weight.
"I don't think it's that disgusting," said Bruno Cazarini, 13, of the exhibit's topic. "I think plenty of people get the wrong impression."
Cazarini, who was visiting the zoo with a school group, said he knew about dung beetles, some of which burrow inside dung to eat and rest. But he did not know about its uses as a type of waterproof plaster for the homes of Masai people in East Africa, which he learned from information at the exhibit.
Adults have had fun with material, too. Some volunteers and zoo employees have started wearing plastic poop pins that look like the real thing. Zoo personnel have also brought out a bowl of chocolate-covered candy, inviting visitors to take one if they dare.
Elephant keepers, meanwhile, were charged with weighing the amount of elephant poop one of the zoo's Asian male elephants, Dahlip, produces in a 24-hour period. The total: 540 pounds. Meanwhile, a commercial for the exhibit, which will begin running shortly, has already shown up on YouTube.
One couple, who are zoo donors, even called to offer to loan the zoo a scat sample of their own. The pair has a lump of excrement from 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat enclosed in a glass globe, which the zoo plans to put on exhibit within a few weeks.
On the Net:
Miami MetroZoo: http://www.miamimetrozoo.com/