There aren’t many places where one is not only allowed, but encouraged to play with poo, but the Animal Grossology exhibit at the Hong Kong Science Museum is one of them. The new exhibit shows off the less mentioned aspects of nature: the weird, the odd, and the utterly disgusting. From vomiting to pooping, all the animal facts and behaviours left unmentioned in pet store brochures are shown here, in vivid detail, with sounds, video, and even games.
There are 16 different exhibits on display, each detailing different animal facts. A major feature is the animatronic statues of a range of animals, from bugs to bovines. While flies are usually an annoyance, a giant talking fly the size of a dog is fascinating, and a great way to learn more about the feeding habits of flies. (Fun fact: flies taste their meals with the tiny hairs on their legs, but before they eating, they vomit onto their food to pre-digest it. Yum!)
These models bring to life what school biology books fail to express – but don’t take our word for it, they’ll tell you themselves, in English and Cantonese.
One of the most impressively detailed models is that of the humble cow. A cow is a “ruminant”, which means it regurgitates and re-chews its food (or “cud” as it’s known at this point) multiple times during its four-stomach digestive process.
While those bits of information can be read in any book or internet search, it is this exhibit that shows the process using a moving model, allowing viewers to see for themselves how a cow eats grass.
Showing how animals eat is an important part of the exhibit, but there’s a whole section that deals with the “other end” of things: pooping. There’s even a game where you play the role of the mighty dung beetle, rolling around a virtual field to collect ... well, dung.
If the dung beetle isn’t enough for you, then head over to the Party Pooper section, where there’s enough scat, droppings, manure, splay and guano to satisfy your animal excrement needs. The place is a gold mine for gross-out dinner conversations.
The exhibit also touches on animals closer to home, those lovable puppies and kitties. Of course, this being Grossology, it focuses on the origins of cat hairballs, and looks at why dogs sniff each others’ butts (complete with simulations of scents for the brave and adventurous).
On the more exotic end of the spectrum, there is an introduction to blood suckers – such as fleas, leeches, mosquitoes and ticks – that includes an easy-to-understand model of their differences, and a basic guide on how to repel mosquitoes.
Paulina Chan Shuk-man, curator at the museum says: “The key point of the exhibit is to teach knowledge about animals and instil a sense of respect for life.”
She points out that not all “yucky” animals are pests, and many of them, such as frogs, play an important role. “Because of heavy urbanisation, there are no frogs to eat mosquitoes here. It’s a perfect example of the importance of eco-balance and the cycle of life.”
She also notes the special care the museum took to choose this particular exhibit.
“It’s a simple and understandable exhibit, unlike the cutting-edge technology of our previous special exhibit on the Large Hadron Collider.” she says.
“Seeing how many local students lack exposure to nature, hopefully this can expose them to something interesting and unfamiliar. It’s also about breaking taboos on poop and vomit, and other ‘disgusting’ things about animals.”
Animal Grossology is open from now until November 2 at the Hong Kong Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui