Tag Archives: poop

Much ado about poo: Feces fuels Hawaii feral feline debate

Two wildlife issues have collided in Hawaii, pitting one group of animal defenders against another in an impassioned debate. The point of contention? Deadly cat poop and the feral felines that produce it.

Federal researchers believe feces from the legions of feral cats roaming Hawaii is spreading a disease that is killing Hawaiian monk seals, some of the world’s most endangered marine mammals. Some conservationists advocate euthanizing those cats that no one wants, and that’s got cat lovers up in arms.

“It’s a very difficult, emotional issue,” said state Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of a committee that earlier this year heard and then abandoned a proposal to ban the feeding of feral cats on state land after an outcry. “It struck a nerve in our community.”

The problem stems from a parasite common in cats that can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that killed at least five female Hawaiian monk seals and three males since 2001, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“While eight seals may not sound like a lot of animals, it actually has pretty large ramifications for an endangered population where there’s only about 1,300 seals in existence at this point in time,” said Michelle Barbieri, veterinary medical officer for NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal research program.

Scientists believe monk seals become exposed to toxoplasmosis by ingesting contaminated water or prey.

Felines are the only animals that can shed Toxoplasma gondii eggs, or oocysts. The parasites enter their digestive tract through infected prey then multiply in the small intestine and produce the eggs. Outdoor cats excrete the eggs in their feces, which researchers say washes into the ocean.

The eggs accumulate in invertebrates that live along the sea floor, where monk seals often feed. They can survive in fresh water, saltwater and soil for up to two years.

Any warm-blooded animal can become infected. California sea otters have died from toxoplasmosis, and it’s one of the major reasons the Hawaiian crow, alala, is extinct in the wild. Toxoplasmosis is rarely problematic for people with healthy immune systems, but it’s why doctors advise pregnant women not to handle kitty litter.

Many cities struggle with feral cats, but the problem is particularly acute in Hawaii because of its sensitive ecosystem and at-risk native species, experts say. Only two mammals are native to Hawaii: the hoary bat and the Hawaiian monk seal.

“Everything else here_ deer, sheep, goats, cats, mongoose _ they’re all invasive, they’re all introduced,” said Angela Amlin, NOAA’s acting Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator, adding cats have no predators in Hawaii to control their population.

Marketing research commissioned by the Hawaiian Humane Society in 2015 estimated some 300,000 feral cats roam Oahu alone.

Marine debris, climate change, predation and human interaction all threaten the survival of Hawaiian monk seals. But feral cats present their greatest disease concern, Amlin said.

“As conservationists, what we really have to look at is this is what Hawaii’s native ecosystem includes, and cats are unfortunately not part of that,” Amlin said. “When it comes to the feral cat population, there should be a program in place to bring in these animals, adopt the ones that are adoptable and humanely euthanize those that are not.”

Others take offense to that notion.

Classifying animals with labels such as native and invasive creates a “hierarchy in which the protection of certain animals comes at the suffering of others,” Hawaiian Humane Society President and CEO Pamela Burns wrote in a letter opposing the state Senate bill that would have banned cat-feeding on state land. She contended the 300,000 figure overstates the problem because the study looked at how many cats people were feeding and might have missed instances where multiple people fed the same outdoor cat.

Those who care for stray cats advocate trapping, neutering and spaying to help control their population.

The University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus, in Honolulu, started a feral cat management program _ with authorized feeders trained in tasks like trapping and feces disposal _ after the stench and mess from hundreds of cats prompted complaints, especially when children at a campus daycare center got flea bites, said Roxanne Adams, director of buildings and grounds.

The program started in 2011 and appears to have reduced the number of felines, she said.

Euthanizing cats is unacceptable unless they’re extremely sick, said Alicia Maluafiti, board president of animal welfare group Poi Dogs and Popoki.

“I totally disagree with the … generalization that cat people love cats more than these endangered species,” Maluafiti said. “What we just don’t advocate is the wholesale killing, the extermination, of one species … for one.”

Excrement exciting at Michigan museum’s latest exhibit

Cream? Sugar? Poop?

Among the other things you’ll learn at the Sloan Museum’s latest exhibit, “The Scoop on Poop,” is that the most expensive coffee in the world, before it was ever roasted, first passed through the colon of an Indonesian mammal called the palm civet. That is to say, if that wasn’t clear, that it pooped it out, according to The Flint Journal.

Palm civets have a thing for the berry of the coffee tree, the seed of which is commonly known as the coffee bean. The bean cannot be digested with the rest of the berry. And so, in goes the berry, and out comes the bean, which is then meticulously collected, cleaned and then roasted and served.

Costing $175 a pound, it’s not likely you’ve bought the beans yourself. However, according to the literature at Sloan, the coffee has a “rich” and “musky” flavor.

That’s just one thing you’ll learn at the Sloan exhibit.

“There’s a lot of life’s aspects you can look at through poop,” said Todd Slisher, executive director at Sloan.

That’s the whole idea of the exhibit. Sure, scientists can use poop to see what an animal has been eating, and it’s fun to be able to identify different kinds of droppings (there’s an interactive quiz at the exhibit), but there’s a lot more to poop than that.

For example, take the ancient curse of the tombs in ancient Egypt.

For years, it was known that upon entering ancient tombs, some archaeologists and looters would hallucinate and become ill, and so it must be the work of ancient spirits _ right?

Nope. Just poop. Over about 3,000 years, bats can leave a lot of poop lying around, and that’s enough time for some fungus to grow and give any visitors a good ol’ case of histoplasmosis.

If you’re a science nerd, that’s cooler than any ancient mystery. In fact, you don’t need to be a science nerd to appreciate poop. It’s fascinating all by itself. People burn poop for fuel, cover their huts in “poop plaster” to keep rain out, and can turn elephant poop into paper. People sculpt poop. In Wisconsin, you can enter contests to see how far you can throw cow poop. There are creatures — moths, spiders, frogs, and others — whose natural camouflage is looking like a little turd.

Who can resist?

Not kids, said Slisher, which was part of the idea behind bringing “The Scoop on Poop,” inspired by the children’s book of the same name, to Sloan.

“It’s a fun exhibit. It’s aimed at an audience we’re trying to target,” he said, meaning kids, anywhere from 4 years old to teens.

He said so far the exhibit, which runs until Sept. 6, has been drawing community and school groups. It also fits into their summer programming with classes like “Dino Poop Camp,” in which children get to pick through some 65-million-year-old prehistoric poop to conduct experiments.

So far, Slisher said, he’s been pleased with the response to it. And that’s good because, as Olivia Kushuba, marketing and special events assistant said, “Poop is such a touchy subject.”

In fact, there was some worry among staff before the exhibit arrived, about how it might smell.

Luckily, the museum still just smells like a museum.

“We were very thankful,” she said.

Published through the AP member exchange.

Poo prints: DNA testing for dog poop on the rise in Seattle area

Frustrated with dog owners who refuse to clean up after their pets, an increasing number of apartments in Seattle are opting to use DNA testing to identify the culprits.

The Seattle Times reports that a company called BioPet Vet Lab from Knoxville, Tennessee, is providing its PooPrints testing kits to 26 apartment and condo complexes and homeowners associations in the region.

Erin Atkinson, property manager at Potala Village Apartments in Everett says the messes are all over.

“There was poop inside the elevators, in the carpeted hallways, up on the roof,” Atkinson said. “They’re lazy, I guess.”

That’s why, since February 2014, tenants have been paying a “one-time fee of $29.95 for DNA testing.”

BioPet says in the past five years, the DNA test has been used in nearly 1,000 places around the U.S., and it’s especially popular in Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and other large cities.

The marketing took a little longer to reach the Northwest, but King-Snohomish-Pierce counties are opportune sites. They are home to about 811,000 dogs. Seattle has 50 percent more dogs than kids, the Times said. One study said dogs in that three-county region are responsible for about 268,000 pounds (121,600 kilograms) of droppings a day.

Atkinson says that after some initial fines, DNA testing is working at her complex, with two dozen or so dogs.

“One person was fined five times in one week,” she said. “That’s over $500. Now people clean up after their dogs.”

The fines added up this way: $59.95 to have the poop tested, and $50 to the complex for the hassle of collecting the sample.

Atkinson says that residents at the complex are “mostly on board” for having their dogs’ DNA tested.

Cruise ships dump a billion gallons of sewage in ocean

Cruise ships dumped more than a billion gallons of sewage in the ocean this year, much of it raw or poorly treated, according to federal data analyzed by Friends of the Earth. The activsit group, releasing its annual report card on cruise ships, called for stronger rules to protect oceans, coasts, sea life and people.

The report shows that some of the 16 cruise lines graded are slowly getting greener; but more than 40 percent of the 167 ships still rely on 35-year-old waste treatment technology. Such systems leave harmful levels of fecal matter, bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants in the water. By law, wastewater dumped within 3 nautical miles of shore must be treated, but beyond that ships are allowed to dump raw sewage directly into the ocean.

In a reversal from prior years of cooperation and transparency, all 16 major cruise lines refused — through their industry association, Cruise Lines International Association — to respond to Friends of the Earth’s requests for information on their pollution-reduction technologies. So the 2014 Cruise Ship Report card contains a new category — “Transparency,” in which every cruise line received an “F” grade.

“By working to stifle the Cruise Ship Report Card, the industry attempted to shield itself from continued scrutiny of its environmental practices, and obscure data from conscientious consumers who would make different choices based on how a cruise ship or line performs on the report card,” said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director for Friends of the Earth.

“It’s time for the cruise industry to stop trying to hide the dirty ships in its fleet,” said Keever.

Friends of the Earth’s report card grades cruise lines on four criteria: sewage treatment technology; whether ships can plug into shore-based power and if they use cleaner fuel than required by U.S. and international law; compliance with Alaska’s water quality regulations to protect the state’s coast; and transparency which is a new criteria this year.

Disney Cruise Line, based in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, was ranked as the most environmentally responsible line, earning an A for sewage treatment. Its overall grade would have remained an A if it would have responded to our requests for information but this year it received a C plus.

At the other end of the scale, Carnival Cruise Lines of Doral, Florida — which has the world’s largest fleet of 24 cruise ships but only two with advanced sewage treatment technology —- received an F for sewage treatment again this year. Carnival Lines’ parent company, Carnival Corp. & PLC of Miami and London, also operates six other lines graded by the report card and all seven lines were downgraded for refusal to respond to Friends of the Earth.

“As the industry leader, Carnival Corp. has to step up its environmental game throughout all of its different lines,” said Keever. “No wonder Carnival Corp. refuses to respond to Friends of the Earth or be completely honest with its customers when it continues to use outdated technology that pollutes our oceans and threatens our marine ecosystem health, sea life and all of us.”

The Environmental Protection Agency says an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage a day — enough to fill 10 backyard swimming pools in a week. That adds up to more than 1 billion gallons a year for the industry — a conservative estimate, since some new ships carry as many as 8,000 passengers and crew and the report card doesn’t include the entire worldwide fleet.

In addition, each ship generates and dumps about eight times that much “graywater” from sinks, showers and baths, which can contain many of the same pollutants as sewage and significantly affects water quality.

Cruise ships are also responsible for significant amounts of air pollution from the dirty fuel they burn. Even at the dock, cruise ships often run dirty diesel engines to provide electrical power to passengers and crew.

According to the EPA, each day an average cruise ship is at sea it emits more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars and more soot than 1 million cars. Starting in 2015, cleaner fuel standards in the U.S. and Canada will reduce the amount of sulfur emitted by each ship about 97 percent and the amount of soot by 85 percent, in addition to the interim cleaner fuel standards already in place in North America.

“This is an industry worth billions of dollars that could install the most advanced sewage treatment and air pollution reduction technology available,” said Keever.

Environmental group sues over cruise ships’ sewage discharges

An environmental group is suing in federal court seeking better regulation of cruise ships and the sewage they dump into the ocean.

Friends of the Earth, represented by Earthjustice, want more effective regulation of the industry, said to dump more than a billion gallons of sewage — much of it poorly treated — into the ocean last year.

The group also is seeking better regulation of the sewage discharged from cargo ships and oil tankers.

Friends of the Earth said in a news release on May 1 that the sewage from the ships pollutes beaches, contaminates coral reefs and destroys marine ecology.

Sewage contamination also puts swimmers at elevated risk of illness and can make seafood caught by coastal fishermen unsafe to eat.

Also, discharges from ships disrupt coastal economies.

In 2012, ship sewage contributed to elevated levels of fecal coliform that led to more than 31,000 days of beach advisories and closings.

“Sewage-contaminated waters not only harm sea life, but also harm people who use these waters,” said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director at Friends of the Earth. “These ship sewage discharges contribute to the risk of serious, potentially life-threatening health effects such as gastrointestinal illnesses, hepatitis, ear nose and throat illnesses, vomiting, and respiratory diseases. The EPA reported in 2000 that its ship sewage treatment standards were out of date and needed an update. After 38 years, it is time for EPA to act.”

Sewage discharge close to shore has been banned in the New England area but not in the Northwest, the Gulf of Mexico or the Southeast.

Several years ago, the Friends of the Earth petitioned the EPA and asked that it update its 1976 performance standards and pollution limits for onboard marine sanitation devices — the systems used to treat sewage on ships.

The EPA has not proposed any changes.

A report in 2013 from the group indicated that Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Cunard and Seabourn Cruise Line have installed advanced sewage treatment systems in a majority of their ships, while Carnival, Silversea, Costa and Crystal Cruises received failing grades in the review.

1 million gallons of manure spilled this year in Wisconsin

State officials say Wisconsin farms spilled more than 1 million gallons of manure this year, the greatest amount in seven years.

Manure handling is a volatile issue in Wisconsin as dairy farms grow larger.

An analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows about one-third of the spills since 2007 came from farms with 700 or more cows. Wisconsin has nearly 200 large-scale livestock operations.

State Department of Natural Resources records show the second largest volume in spills happened in 2008 when 905,000 gallons were released.

In the latest spill, 300,000 gallons of manure spilled from a ruptured pipe Nov. 24 at a facility in Dane County that uses farm waste to produce electricity. The break sent manure into Six Mile Creek.