A human eats, defecates, reproduces, dies. And in between tries to give meaning to his life by being as destructive as he can of everything around him.

An animal also eats, defecates, reproduces and dies and leaves the planet intact.

Whom would God choose, I wonder, to enter his heaven?

Human beings have no respect for their own defecation, nor does it really matter where they go: in communal bathrooms, in individual ones or in the open. They eat and drink so badly that their faeces stinks and spreads disease. Even the poo of a little baby is full of harmful bacteria.

But animals, especially wild ones, are particular. Many species choose communal latrine areas to defecate and urinate. Raccoons, badgers, hyenas, elephants, antelopes, deer, lizards and horses. In fact a 240 million year old defecation site of the Dinodontosaurus, found in 2013 in Talampaya National Park, Argentina, has been called the world’s oldest public toilet. Hyraxes and moles, who live underground, come above ground to defecate on sites that become dunghills. These sites also become territorial markers for the group to warn off other groups from the area. These toilets are at strategic locations, away from where the animals feed and sleep.

Are humans the only ones who build bathrooms? Social insects, like the Black Garden Ant, use specialized toilet area in their own nests – just like us. Jerdon’s Jumping Ants build refuse chambers in their nests, well below their living areas. Faeces and waste, such as uneaten food, is dumped there. Leaf cutter ants deposit their faeces in a pile outside their nests and have a special group of ants whose only job is to deal with the waste.Spidermites weave nests, and all the nest members defecate only at one site inside the nest.

Each living being (apart from humans who defecate in the same fields they grow crops in and next to the water pumps they drink from) believes in sanitation. Horses and other grazing animals use dedicated latrine areas so that grazing areas are kept pollution and parasite free.

Going one step further, antelopes deliberately defecate on exposed sites which are nutrient deficient, like sandy soil or rocky areas. Their faeces enriches the soil and deposits undigested plant seeds.

Antelope
AP Photo

 

What are the elimination habits of some species?

When it becomes very hot, vultures defecate on their own legs. The principle is the same as sweat— as the liquid evaporates it cools their skins.

Caterpillars shoot their granola flake size faeces (insect faeces is called frass) out of their rear ends with such force that it lands 40 times their length, away. This rocket disposal avoids attracting carnivorous ants.

White footed Lemurs, who live in Madagascar, stay in loose knit families. They move around independently at night and live on separate trees. But to stay in touch, and communicate information, the entire family defecates at the same clump of trees which is in the centre of their territory. The lemur clings to the tree trunk, lift its tail up and drops the faeces to the ground. By sniffing these trees, family members exchange information. The males also leave scents from their scent glands which warn off other non- family lemurs. Dwarf lemurs smear their faeces on branches of trees, creating a thick build-up. Bamboo lemurs, create communal toilets around the trees where they sleep or eat. By doing this, the animals focus on defending important resources, instead of the entire territory.

Northern Collared Lemmings have faeces that glows ultraviolet, which birds of prey can see, so they build underground toilets in order to avoid predators.

Meerkats, underground squirrel like creatures who live in families of hundreds, have communal latrines in the core of their territories which they use daily. But they also ring their territories with latrines, which are used sparingly but mark their areas. This prevents any face to face confrontations between families.

Some solitary carnivores also use communal toilets. The fiercely solitary ocelot, or dwarf leopard of South America, defecates in communal latrines which act as information centres. Female ocelots can convey if they are ready to mate, and male ocelots advertise their presence to others in the area. Two completely separate, solitary, carnivore species share latrines, like the Pampas Cats and the fox-like Culpeos, who use the same rocky caves of the Andes.

Rhinos often tread through their dunghills, sniffing the dung at the piles to decode messages left in them by other rhinos. In a study published in January 2015, researchers found that rhinos spent no time in sniffing dung from group members, but took a long time over the dung of strangers.

Rhinos
AP Photo

 

Birds don’t defecate in their nests. They even take the poo done by their babies and carry it out of the nest to drop it somewhere else

Rabbits and capybaras produce two kinds of poop: hard, dry pellets and soft ones. The soft ones are eaten again so that no minerals go waste.

Hawaii’s beautiful white-sand beaches are simply the faeces of parrotfish. Nearly every grain of sand is a bit of coral that travels throughits body and ends up as sand. Each fish contributes about 400 kilograms a year.

The Australian wombat, a relative of the Koala, is unique in the animal kingdom in that it produces cube shaped poo– around 80 to 100 cubes per night. It lives in underground burrows during the day, but comes out at night to forage on vegetation. Wombats deposit faeces on the tops of rocks and logs, where they can be easily found by other wombats. The flat sides of the cubes ensure they do not roll off their locations.

Small cats whether domestic or wild, like servals, bury their faeces. Dominant wild cats, like lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars, that compete for territory, leave it in the open to signal that they have claimed the area as their own.

Peregrine Falcons defecate before take-off to lighten their load when flying.

Dogs don't bury their faeces. They perform a ritual designed to advertise their presence. Dogs have scent glands between their toes.  They use their back feet to vigorously scratch the ground around their droppings as a visual marker.  

Dog

Blind naked mole rats also have bathrooms in their nests. Nest mates regularly visit this area and rub their bodies with the waste to coat themselves with pheromones that identify them as members of the group.

Honey bees go on “defecation flights” to deposit their faeces far from the hive. During the cold days of winter, they don’t leave their nests, but when it becomes warmer they leave the hive en masse for one large group poop. Stingless bees have specialized members of the hive dedicated to waste removal.

Chinchillas defecate in latrines. They mix their faeces with plant materials and then urinate on them, which form crystals that seal the latrine.

Newly born termites cannot digest wood, so they first feed on faeces from adults, often right from their anuses. They ingest bacteria which then allow them to eat wood. The termitesCoptotermes formosanu use faecesto build their nests. This helps them fend off diseases, because beneficial bacteria feed on termite waste. It's like building a home out of antibiotics.

Three-lined potato beetles use their own faeces as a defence against predators. They feed on poisonous plants and pile their own excreta onto their backs as a chemical shield.

Badgers live in family groups of six individuals in underground homes with many rooms, entrances and tunnels. They keep their living quarters clean and will and drag old hay, grass, bracken and plastic bags outside to prevent fleas and lice. Badgers will not bring food into their homes, and defecate in distant shallow pits.

Elephant faeces is so informative that one piece of dung will tell you the age of the animal (the greater the diameter, the older the elephant), the size, the gender, diet, when the elephant was there and its health condition

People who live in areas with poor sanitation often suffer from water-borne diseases, when excrement gets into their drinking water. All our sewers flow into the rivers that give us drinking water. But the adage that you shouldn't "poop where you eat" doesn't seem to apply to humans. Even cockroaches collect faeces and dump it outside their nests. So who is cleaner?

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org