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SOS Rhino : In the News : Teen cashes in on rhino droppings
 

Teen cashes in on rhino droppings

  Fertile mind turns range of species' feces into growing business
PAUL BOURGEOIS
Knight Ridder

FORT WORTH, Texas - Business is picking up for 17-year-old Kas Snodgrass, a senior at Glen Rose High in North Texas and the brains behind WildDoo.

When plain old domestic animal droppings simply won't do for your garden, now there is WildDoo, the organic composted dung from the rhinos, giraffes, zebras and other ungulates, or hoofed animals, at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose.

The new product -- actually an ages-old product in a new package -- officially went on sale Wednesday at garden centers in North Texas.

The idea is to sell the stuff and raise money to support the conservation work at the 1,700-acre nonprofit wildlife preserve. It also is an opportunity to dispose of a commodity of which Fossil Rim has loads.

"We do not have exact numbers on the total, but the rhinos alone are responsible for 500 pounds a day," said Justine Sweeney, a spokeswoman.

Aside from the brain that came up with the idea, Snodgrass also is the muscle behind WildDoo.

He spends his Saturdays smack in the middle of a massive, 4-foot-high pile of excretion. Shovel in hand, he fills each 40-pound bag.

His dad, Kelly Snodgrass, is the animal care coordinator at the park who helped develop WildDoo, which they first wanted to call "Endangered Species Feces."

"It's been piling up for years in some cases, and having a teenage son who needs an agrarian education, we came up with the idea of bagging and selling it," Kelly Snodgrass said.

The elder Snodgrass said the park's dozen rhinos are prodigious producers, but the 1,000 or so other ungulates at Fossil Rim are doing their part.

He said they have not done an analysis of the nutrients in the stuff, but from personal experience he knows it makes his plants happy.

Patrick Condy, executive director of Fossil Rim, said WildDoo could be a win-win-win deal for the park.

Condy said disposing of the excess "second-hand vegetation" helps Fossil Rim better manage and protect the land, could raise money to help save more endangered species and could be a marketing tool to help advertise the park.

Each 40-pound sack of the all-natural product sells for $9 to $10, depending on the retailer. The Fossil Rim Wildlife Center nets about $3.50 per bag. It costs more than domestic animal manure, but each bag also comes with a buy-one-get-one-free admission to Fossil Rim valued at $16.95.

Kas Snodgrass works amid several waist-high piles of muck each about the size of a basketball court. Several piles are "cooking," or composting, at any given time. It can take five or six months for each pile to turn into compost.

On a good day, Kas Snodgrass can fill 200 bags.

"It's not bad work, but it is dull sometimes," he said. "And it doesn't stink at all. It's just dirt."

For his effort, Kas nets about $1 a bag. He said he needs a new truck and another 20,000 bags ought to do it.

WildDoo

WHERE TO BUY

For a complete list of Texas retailers, (800) 361-1286.

FOSSIL RIM

More information about Fossil Rim is available at www.fossilrim.com