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UNIQUE FUND-RAISING IDEA AT ZOO SMELLS OF SUCCESS
VOLUNTEER PICKS UP DUNG OF ELEPHANTS TO AID PROJECT

As a 13-year Buffalo Zoo volunteer, Marc Adler has often been at the forefront of fund-raising activities.

On Friday, he took up the rear, so to speak. Here's the poop: The advertising executive reported bright and early to the elephant house, where head keeper Daryl Hoffman handed over a shovel, broom and rake and watched Adler sweep and scoop the dung left overnight by the resident Asian elephants, Buki, Surapa and Jothi.

To what end, you ask? Adler, a member of the zoo board, concocted the cleanup campaign to raise some of the $2.5 million needed to complete the $26 million first phase of zoo reconstruction.

The man who plugged those Doug Flutie candy bars a few years ago was determined to be creative, even if it meant getting down and dirty with three rather large females. "I wasn't going to ride a bike or run five miles to collect pledges," he said.

Friends, family and associates were asked to make pledges for each pound of elephant waste he lifted. The pledges are still coming in but he hopes he'll collect $100 for every pound he shoveled. Since the three pachyderms' nightly deposit averages 250 pounds, Adler figured the gimmick could bring in up to $25,000.

He sent out more than 100 letters, and got back about a dozen pledges. Other donors say their checks are on the way.

Zookeepers didn't weigh Adler's morning's work but are crediting him with the full 250 pounds.

"People couldn't believe I was doing this," he said, so reporters were invited to witness the heavy lifting. As further proof, he offered the dung to contributors as garden fertilizer, "but everyone turned me down."

Initial reaction to Adler's fund-raising ploy was mixed. Buki, Surapa and Jothi looked on quizzically as he mucked their space. Hoffman offered a lukewarm critique of his shoveling technique: "It's OK."

On the other hand, keeper Tammy Sugrue, who normally starts the workday with shovel in hand, was totally supportive. Adler, she said, "can come back anytime."

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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