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Grow your own produce with Zoo Doo

Posted by: Christy Cheever, Development

This summer at the zoo we are teaching guests about the environmental benefits of eating locally, and in an earlier blog post we talked about how we also try to feed our animals locally produced food as well.

But where the food comes from is just one part of this sustainable story--we're also very involved in where it goes. As animals process their food, their bodies take in the vitamins and nourishment they need to live and thrive. The rest ends up as waste. And at the zoo, that’s the makings of some prized material…Zoo Doo.

Zoo Doo is finished, dark and rich compost with some woody material remaining. Woodland Park Zoo creates nearly 1 million pounds of compost each year saving $60,000 per year in disposal costs.

The zoo’s non-primate, herbivore animals’ manure is used for this process. This includes the elephants, hippos, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, and oryx among others. The Zoo Doo process begins when fresh manure and straw bedding are collected from animal enclosures. Next, leaves, wood chips and other organic materials from the zoo grounds are combined with the manure and straw mixture. When this material is watered and piled into long rows, it quickly heats up, reaching 150+ degrees! The high temperatures destroy pathogens and weed seeds. The piles are turned and watered until the mixture becomes dark and crumbly, bearing little resemblance to the original components.

After three months, the compost is cool and ready for use in home gardens. Adding this rich, dark Zoo Doo to your soil will enhance water and nutrient retention, and will improve soil texture. It is a completely organic soil amendment that will help your garden grow your own locally produced food just like our animals eat.

To get your hands on some Zoo Doo, you’ll want to enter the lottery during our Fall Fecal Fest. Send in your postcard from Sept. 1 through Sept. 19 addressed to Dr. Doo, Woodland Park Zoo, 601 N. 59th St., Seattle, WA 98103. Include the following information:

- Name
- Day and evening phone numbers
- Preference: Zoo Doo or Bedspread
- Amount of Zoo Doo or Bedspread you’d like to purchase (anything from a garbage bag to a full-size, pick-up truck load)
- Weekday or weekend preference for pick-up

Entry cards will be selected randomly for as many entrants possible. Dr. Doo will contact the lucky drawn entries only. For more information on the lottery, pick up dates and Zoo Doo costs, see our Zoo Doo website.

You can also get your hands on small buckets of Zoo Doo at either of our ZooStore locations and get started on growing your own produce right away.