Taipei Zoo turning animal poo into educational tool


CNA

TAIPEI–The Taipei Zoo has decided on a rather offbeat approach to luring visitors during the winter vacation, offering up animal excrement to give people special insight into how some of the zoo’s animals live.

Animal caretakers will examine and explain the feces of three animals — leopards, African elephants and koalas — for visitors three times a week throughout February, the zoo said.

It is part of the zoo’s ongoing program to introduce all aspects of the animals’ lives amid increasing interest in animal behavior kindled by the 3-D box office hit “Life of Pi,” zoo officials said.

“We want to capitalize on the curiosity generated by the movie,” said project manager Lin Jun-lan.

Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee’s film tells the story of a 16-year-old Hindu boy who survives a shipwreck and is stranded on a lifeboat for 227 days.

A total of nine types of animals appearing in the movie, from Formosan black bears and Malayan tapirs to flamingos, ring-tailed lemurs and leopards, can be seen at the zoo.

The Taipei Zoo has previously launched education programs looking into animals’ diets, breeding, and even their feces, but Lin said the renewed focus on animal excrement was conceived to get visitors to explore an aspect of the animal world that remains obscure.

Youngsters can also learn more about their bodies by observing animal waste, she said, noting that young boys seem to be the demographic most fascinated by the subject.

“Somehow the poo topic is very stimulating for boys from 5 to 9 years old. They could be our target audience during winter vacation,” Lin said.

Visitors will have to be a little lucky to be on hand to see the freshest animal excrement at the showings because there is no way to predict when the animals will answer nature’s call, Lin said.

For those fortunate enough to attend one of the show-and-tell sessions, Lin said they can “smell” the poo but are not advised to touch it.

The guided session will be offered from 10:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday in February except for Feb. 10, 12 and 14. For more information, go to http://english.zoo.taipei.gov.tw.