Buy endangered feces to save an endangered species!

Endangered fecesThis year the International Rhino Foundation is auctioning off four separate pieces of rhino dung on eBay, representing four of the five rhino species (including White, Black, Sumatran, and Greater One Horned Rhinos).

The opening bid for each item will depend on the rarity of the species. Each piece of rhino dung has been dried and mounted in a clear trophy box, labeled with the name of the rhino species that produced it. All proceeds from the auction will benefit IRF’s conservation programs and help us to save rhinos from extinction.

The rhino poop auction will begin Thursday, November 29, 2007 and can be accessed by searching for “rhino poop” at www.eBay.com.

Rhino Dung
So what’s the poop on rhinos? The IRF wants to call attention to these marvelous species – and to share every detail of information that people might not know. Not only do rhinos need our help, every aspect of rhino biology is fascinating. Including, pardon us – rhino poop. 

Rhinos are plant eaters. White and Greater one-horned rhinos are grazers that spend their days much like cows and horses, munching away on grasses and shoots. Black, Sumatran, and Javan rhinos are browsers, and have a prehensile upper lip that is adapted to allow them to twist and break twigs and leaves. Much of what rhinos eat is low in nutrients, so they tend to wander around their habitat and eat on the go. And, well, eating a lot leads to pooping a lot.

Rhinos prune bushes and small trees and shrubs as they eat, and when they poop, they disperse seeds, which eventually germinate and grow. Rhinos that poop in water can indirectly provide nutrients for other species, like fish, which eat their dung. These are just a few of the important roles rhinos play in maintaining the health of the ecosystems in which they live.

Because the plants that rhinos eat are often difficult to digest, a lot can be learned by taking a close look at rhino dung. If you break it apart, you can often tell what a rhino has been eating.

Most rhinos use piles of dung to leave “messages” for other rhinos – nuances in the of smell of dung can tell a rhino a lot about others in the area. Each rhino’s smell identifies its owner as unique – the smell is different for young vs. adult animals, for males vs. females, and females in estrus vs. non-reproductive females. Combined with urine left along trails, dung piles create invisible “borders” around a rhino’s territory.

The age of the message left behind helps a rhino to decide what to do next. Fresh poop may mean another animal is in the area, and should be avoided or sought. An old message might mean that a rival is no longer in the area.

Check out IRF’s Conservation section to learn more about how scientists and wildlife managers are protecting rhinos, and visit eBay to bid on rhino dung yourself, starting November 29!

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