The Times September 12, 2006

Tiger dung brings whiff of danger to the garden

Translate the following ten sentences into Chinese

IF YOUR neighbour’s cat tends to treat your garden as a lavatory, forget pepper spray and water pistols — tiger dung could be the answer.

Suburban gardens troubled by unwelcome visitors need a touch of Sumatra, according to Chessington World of Adventures, which has auctioned off a year’s supply of the “new black gold” on eBay.

If claims made by the Surrey theme park’s staff prove accurate, and the dung really does scare away cats and foxes, then tiger manure could soon be in big demand.

But if Chessington’s zookeepers were hoping to spark a bidding war, they were disappointed. A single, anonymous individual, known only by the username finale-silver, offered the starting price of £240.

For the next 12 months, this unopposed enthusiast is now the rightful owner of all that Chessington’s two Sumatran tigers, Ratna and Banu, manage to produce.

Zoo managers say that they will donate the money to the NSPCC and have promised that the dung will be frozen pending collection to ensure it remains potent.

Tim Rumball, editor of Amateur Gardening magazine, said that readers regularly contacted him with inquiries about the faeces:

“Cats really are the bane of many gardeners’ lives,” he said. “It is most unpleasant when you are weeding a border or digging up a nice carrot to plunge your hand into cat poo.

“It’s a clever idea to sell tiger dung — the notion being that cats won’t go where another feline has established territory — but we hear of varied results.

“In some cases it seems to scare animals away, and eventually it will also break down and help feed your garden, but because tigers are carnivorous this will take a while. And it smells dreadful. You may end up scaring yourself out of the garden, too.”

Research from Australia suggests that the Chessington tiger-keepers may be on to something, which will be welcome news for finale-silver, given the theme park’s strict “no returns” policy.

Scientists from the University of Queensland found that a formula of the big cats’ droppings warded off wild goats for three days and, as such, could be used by farmers both as a fertiliser and repellent.

Peter Murray, from the institution, said: “You might want to put it around the perimeter or under each tree so it would cause all those herbivorous animals to say ‘it’s too scary, there’s something here that might bite me’.”

But London Zoo said that it would not be distributing tiger dung. A spokeswoman said: “We do get people asking, but it’s really not something we do because of the biosecurity risks involved. There may be things in the faeces that are dangerous to plants or animals.”