High-capacity vermicomposting pits set up; manure will be sold to farmers

The Zoo and Museum Department is on track to become self-sufficient in managing biodegradable waste. The department had considered options such as a modern magnetic field-based machine, but finally settled for the tried and tested technology of vermicompost.

The unit is built next to the rhinoceros enclosure. A portion of the three large rectangular pits have been filled with dung, dried leaves, and food waste and is expected to yield manure in 90 days. “Only after one cycle is completed can the exact amount of manure produced be precisely calculated. In time, close to one tonne of high-quality manure can be produced a week from this units,” Zoo Director B. Joseph said.

Since the Vilappilsala waste treatment plant was closed two years ago, the Zoo and Museum Department had to rely on a third party to cart away waste in bulk daily. Considering the footfall and the waste left from feeding the animals and cleaning enclosures, it turned out to be a huge burden on the department’s coffers.

Officials from the Kerala Agricultural University visited the zoo and extended support to the latest venture. Currently, four keepers have been entrusted with the responsibility of managing the unit.

Mr. Joseph said the manure generated would be sold to farmers and other groups in the city engaged in cultivation. “We have not yet set a price. We propose to set aside the revenue from the fertilizer sale for zoo employees who are managing the unit,” said Mr. Joseph.

Keeping FMD at bay

The cloven-hoofed creatures in the city zoo are still facing the threat of foot-and-mouth disease. Since the Animal Husbandry Department had issued timely alerts, the department could take precautions such as placing foot and tyre dips near the entrances and administering the Raksha-Ovac vaccine on larger animals such as the nilgai and gaurs earlier this year.

They have now cordoned off the section of the zoo accommodating species susceptible to the deadly disease. Visitors have to take another route that leads straight to the big cats’ section from the elephant and rhino enclosure, bypassing the cloven-hoofed.