Paging Dr. Doodoolittle

Apes hurl it. beetles hoard it. And elephants produce enough of it each day to fill a car. Now officials at John Ball Zoo want to light a room with it. The zoo, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is researching the feasibility of generating electricity using the waste produced by its animals. The first step is testing to see whether the feces, combined with leftover animal feed and food waste from the park's concessions, can be successfully processed in an anaerobic digestion system, which would feed a methane-powered generator.

The zoo has secured grants covering half of the $46,126 needed for research and plans to cover the remaining cost itself. A representative of AGRISA, the Tenn.-based company that would conduct the study, projects that the potential energy output would be modest — perhaps enough to heat one or two buildings. Our suggested uses: fans and electric air fresheners.