For Ramat Gan Safari, There's No Business Like Elephants' Business

Elephant droppings make quality compost, say staff at Ramat Gan Safari Park, and piles of it are saving piles of water. They have recently been using the droppings of the park's 12 elephants to fertilize the trees on the grounds, as well as to save water.

Each elephant deposits seven kilograms of dung four times a day. After a few months the dung heap attracts bacteria, insects and worms, producing high quality compost. Safari staff are using the compost to seal the irrigation basin around young trees, enabling the water to permeate the roots, while slowing down its evaporation. "Until about a year ago we used to pay a company to collect the dung with a tractor," said zoologist Amelia Terkel. "But then we thought, why pay for removing it if we could use it ourselves?"

The staff piled the droppings in a heap and a few months later sent a sample of the fermented dung to an laboratory to check their suitability for the trees' environment.

Two weeks ago the lab results were completed, showing that the dung would be excellent for fertilizing the trees in addition to saving water.

The project is part of the safari's efforts to save water. Like many zoological parks worldwide, the safari is acting to become "greener," she said.

"Several zoos produce their own compost from their animal droppings," she said.