From elephant dung to avian splats: An unusual exhibition spotlights the world of animal poo

It’s likely that the only time you think about animal shit is when you curse loudly after accidentally stepping in some — and yet, you’ll soon be thinking you should visit an exhibition full of the stuff.

What started out as a curiosity some 22 years ago by a zookeeper who on a whim, collected the last poo dropped by an elephant leaving London Zoo for Whipsnade — has turned into a large collection of faecal specimens from a wide variety of animals.

From tiny creatures with tiny poos to avian splats that anyone who has walked under a railway bridge will recognise to the huge mounds left by the sorts of animals typically seen in David Attenborough documentaries, this is a very wide ranging exhibition.

And yes, it’s curiously fascinating.

The excreta that have been collected are all dried and preserved, so it’s a sanitised and unsmelly collection of dung. Despite that, the many signs asking people not to touch the samples almost feels superfluous. You just don’t want to touch them.

This collection of body waste was built up by  Tracey Lee, a former senior zookeeper at London Zoo, and she now has more than a hundred different animal stools in her collection, and this is the first time they’ve been put on display in an exhibition.

Despite the yeuk factor, this is a really clever way of forcing us to think about animals differently, far from the cuddly documentaries and a reminder of the very obvious but generally overlooked aspect of the animal kingdom.

You don’t see animal poo on primetime BBC documentaries, and more’s the pity.

But here you can see poos from the Galapagos Tortoise, the Komodo Dragon, a Giant Jumping Rat (A WHAT!?), gorillas and lemurs, moths and butterflies, and so many more. The pigmy hippo turns out to have larger poos than the big hippo, which seems backward. Elephant poos are the size you expect an elephant poo to be.

Although the display is wide ranging, one wide ranging mammal was missing from the collection – no human poo.

It’s a weirdly fascinating and not at all a stinky exhibition.

I expect it’ll appeal to many people, from the scientifically curious to the kids who get dragged along by their parents to be disgusted but will actually leave fascinated.

The exhibition is in a newly opened space in Kingston, which is also home to the remains of a medieval undercroft and remains of Kingston’s Saxon era river bridge, so you can visit to see both ancient history and modern poo. There’s also a “find the poo” game to play, pick up the paper sheets and try to find the matching displays.

The exhibition, The Origin of the Faeces: Poo from the Zoo is at Fusebox in Kingston upon Thames until Saturday 28th October. It’s open Mon-Sat from 11am to 6pm, and is free to visit.

Fusebox is next to Kingston Bridge and underneath John Lewis.

This article was published on ianVisits


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