Animal dung, so often overlooked when on safari in Africa, can provide researchers with a great deal of information regarding the feeding habits of animals, and provide fascination for tourists.
By Leigh Kemp
No matter how well digested, dung in the wild can provide a great deal of information. Fascinating information such as what the animal has been eating, or what its favoured foods are, can be read in the make-up of the deposit.
Researching Feeding Habits of Animals
If dung is too well digested then breaking it up and putting it in a container of water will separate the contents and the food sources can then be checked. Information that can be gathered includes whether the animal is a browser, grazer, omnivore or carnivore.
Searching through animals dung can be compared to investigating a crime scene, what with all the clues that present themselves. I once found a finger of what looked like a human child in a lion scat I was studying but after more study realised that it was the finger of a baboon that the lion had eaten earlier.
Monitoring dung is one of the most thorough forms of studying feeding habits of animals as the results cannot be argued with.
Dung and Digestive Systems
Studying dung also allows for information on the digestive systems of animals - which differ greatly from species to species. The dung of Hyenas for example is very white, indicating a high concentration of calcium, which in turn indicates the strength of the digestive juices that are able to digest bones.
Elephants on the other hand have very ineffective digestive systems ensuring dung that is not very well digested. The dung is still full of nutrients providing sustenance for a host of other animals including Warthogs, Baboons, Monkeys and birds in the form of seeds and half digested food.
Dung is also essential for the propagation of numerous plant species. Birds and other species feed on fruits and move off into another area where they will release the half digested seeds in their dung. The seeds will germinate, thereby ensuring the propagation of the species.