Thai Elephant Conservation Center
Paper made from elephant dung was used for this and other artwork done by elephants at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. A six-year-old named Pong painted this piece, titled Peaceful Circle, which the center is selling for $80.
By Miguel Llanos Reporter
updated 2/22/2005 11:01:48 AM ET 2005-02-22T16:01:48

Inspired by elephant dung, an Australian company plans to use kangaroo poop to make stationery and other paper products.

Creative Paper Tasmania is looking for 200 to 400 pounds of dung, following in the footsteps, so to speak, of pioneers like the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Thailand, where dung-based paper products help fund conservation programs.

"We came up with the idea after reading an article about how elephant dung paper was a huge tourist product in Africa and Asia," manager Joanna Gair told The Advocate newspaper in Tasmania. "I also discovered that in Scandinavia elk poo paper is the stationery of choice in most offices."

100% odor free
The Thai center's dung paper is marketed through the Original Elephant Dung Paper Web site, which states that "Our paper is 100% bacteria free, 100% odor free, 100% recycled, & 100% handmade — with the exception of some help from the elephants."

"Over 50 percent of what they eat comes straight out the other end," the company adds. "The elephants are kindly doing the first stage of any paper making process — getting the fibers."

A typical elephant drops more than 100 pounds of dung a day, the center says, enough for about 115 sheets of paper.

From there, the dung is washed and boiled for five hours. The wet mass is later spun dry for up to three hours to allow workers to cut the fiber into smaller pieces. A final step has workers press the fiber into paper products.

Gair said the idea is the ultimate in recycling. "It reinforces the ecological message of our paper," she said, "and has great novelty value, especially for kids."

Supply and demand
Creative Paper Tasmania's immediate obstacle is getting enough dung to get started.

"We are hoping the community will help by collecting poo for us and dropping it off in plastic bags, preferably recycled bags," Gair told The Advocate. "New or old (poo), we'll take it all."

Slideshow: Most wanted At the Thai center, the problem isn't about getting enough dung, it's building a market. "We use only the dung from four of the elephants," says Wanchai Asawawibulkij, manager of the center's Elephant Dung Factory. "If we had larger markets then we would be able to use more of the dung (from) around 50 elephants and help more elephants."

The center's been developing the paper business for four years, he adds, and last year added a new component: selling paintings drawn by elephants — on dung paper.

The sale of the artwork has been slow to take off, but Asawawibulkij has a marketer's mindset. "I have not sold any paintings yet on their own as it is still very new," he says, "but orders of over 10,000 baht ($250) get a free painting."

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