DUNG BEETLES OF KENYA – Waste Removal

We’re in Kenya’s Rift Valley, about 60 miles northwest of Nairobi. It’s the start of the short rainy season now here, and the ecosystem’s primary waste removal team is ready to go to work. Their specialty: all manner of animal dung. Their name, appropriately enough: dung beetles. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“In tropical environments, dung beetles are extremely important because they have this crucial role of removing the vast amounts of dung that are deposited on the grassland and recycling this dung.”

Tony Cook is with the University of Leicester in England and a principal investigator with the Earthwatch Institute.

“By removing it they help to uncover the vegetation in the first place, but they also recycle nutrients. And in season, when they’re abundant — and there’s a very seasonal element to this because the beetles emerge after the rains and then there are vast numbers — they provide an important source of food for a wide range of different animals, both mammals and birds.”

“I’m trying to estimate the rates of deposition in the park, in other words, how much dung is actually deposited on the ground’s surface. But elsewhere in Africa, it’s been estimated that something like a metric ton per hectare per year is deposited where there are a lot of large mammals, so you have this immense amount of dung being deposited in savanna grasslands and the dung beetle has performed this crucial role of getting rid of this material, recycling it, but also providing a lot of food for other animals when they’re abundant.”

It’s estimated that there are several thousand species of dung beetles found worldwide, but it’s in the tropics where their recycling efforts are absolutely essential to the environment.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

DUNG BEETLES OF KENYA - Waste Removal

This beetle specializes in decomposing that most ubiquitous of waste products-- dung.
Air Date:10/12/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

We're in Kenya's Rift Valley, about 60 miles northwest of Nairobi. It's the start of the short rainy season now here, and the ecosystem's primary waste removal team is ready to go to work. Their specialty: all manner of animal dung. Their name, appropriately enough: dung beetles. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"In tropical environments, dung beetles are extremely important because they have this crucial role of removing the vast amounts of dung that are deposited on the grassland and recycling this dung."

Tony Cook is with the University of Leicester in England and a principal investigator with the Earthwatch Institute.

"By removing it they help to uncover the vegetation in the first place, but they also recycle nutrients. And in season, when they're abundant -- and there's a very seasonal element to this because the beetles emerge after the rains and then there are vast numbers -- they provide an important source of food for a wide range of different animals, both mammals and birds."

"I'm trying to estimate the rates of deposition in the park, in other words, how much dung is actually deposited on the ground's surface. But elsewhere in Africa, it's been estimated that something like a metric ton per hectare per year is deposited where there are a lot of large mammals, so you have this immense amount of dung being deposited in savanna grasslands and the dung beetle has performed this crucial role of getting rid of this material, recycling it, but also providing a lot of food for other animals when they're abundant."

It's estimated that there are several thousand species of dung beetles found worldwide, but it's in the tropics where their recycling efforts are absolutely essential to the environment.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.