Bodhi, an eight-year-old Asian elephant, enjoys a cooling spray at the Denver's Zoo's new Toyota Elephant Passage. Opened in June 2012, the space is also home to greater one-horned rhinos, gibbons, clouded leopards, and fishing cats. Starting this summer, it will be entirely powered by elephant poop and other zoo waste.
The elephant exhibit burns 15 to 20 percent of the zoo's power, mostly because of all the water required by pachyderms and the rhinos. But if the permitting process continues as planned, the zoo will soon use a new gasification system for energy. "We're taking 90 percent of our total waste stream, including animal waste and visitor trash, and converting it into a viable fuel product, using gasification, to produce about 20 percent of the zoo's total energy needs," said the zoo's sustainability manager, Jennifer Hale.
"The elephant waste has a good heating value to it, so we have that advantage," Hale said, adding that gasification produces not only fuel for electric power but also residual heat that will boost boilers and be used to create warm pools for "elephant hot tubs."
"We're excited. It's definitely not something that has been built on this scale, and so it's exciting for the zoo to have this chance to drive innovation and develop something that could not only be feasible for other zoos but for campuses, small companies, and other types of facilities as well," Hale said.