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My Strangest Gift
Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it. I'm not at home this Christmas. Instead I'm in Phoenix, Arizona. So having now received (I think) almost all of my gifts, I'd have to say that the strangest one I got this year was Elephant Dung Paper from Malawi. It says on the info that comes with the paper that "The elephant dung is first collected from Liwonde National Park and then beaten and mixed with recycled waste paper to produce the pulp from which it is made." It actually looks like very high quality paper (in case you're wondering). Of course, I still have to go over to my Great Aunt's house (she's the one who's into all the alternative medicine stuff), so I may yet get a stranger gift. She has, in fact, already promised to channel my Reiki energy while I'm there.
Posted by The Curator on Sat Dec 25, 2004

Merry Cristmas, Alex.
Posted by Myst  on  Sun Dec 26, 2004  at  03:53 AM
I actually know something about this! According to Sedgewick's THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM (about the Philadelphia Zoo), elephants have very inefficent digestive tracts. Most of the cellulose comes right out the other side, unidgested, and is presumably still usable in papermaking if washed.
Posted by Carl Fink  on  Sun Dec 26, 2004  at  03:00 PM
There's nothing strange about channeling Reiki energy; my mother is a certified Reiki Practitioner, and I have been taking the classes since I was small (I am now 22).
Posted by Erin  on  Sun Dec 26, 2004  at  03:08 PM
In Thailand, there's a very famous artist who use the elephant dung mixed with colour to paint his picture. Each of his collections costs around 3750 dollars ^^ They are very very exquisite, and of smell.
Posted by Jellyfish Marine  on  Mon Dec 27, 2004  at  06:00 AM
Hey, don't knock Reiki. I have fibromyalgia, and was walking quite painfully with a pronounced limp. One Reiki session, and within three days, I was walking without the limp or the pain!
Posted by catlady  on  Mon Dec 27, 2004  at  09:13 AM
Yeah, My dad brought me back some elephant dung paper from South africa a few years back. It was fun to send it to people.
Posted by Phil  in  Dublin  on  Mon Dec 27, 2004  at  09:00 PM
Actually, all cellulose is indigestible by just about all animals (except for certain bacteria). This is one of the reasons eating large amounts of fruit will give you diarrhea. Fiber!

Any omnivorous animal will produce feces that is mostly cellulose. Cellulose is also what makes the pulp they get paper from. So the idea certainly makes sense.

I'm not sure I understand the need for it, though. Any environment with enough plant life to support a population of elephants is going to have more than enough plant life to make paper from, so why use elephant dung at all instead of plant fiber? Is it easier, or is it just for the novelty value?
Posted by Barghest  on  Mon Dec 27, 2004  at  11:08 PM
Yes, cellulose is not directly digestible by animals. That's why many animals have symbiotic microbes in their guts that do it for them. It isn't always bacteria -- I believe termites use dinoflagellates. Ants use external symbiotes, namely fungi.

And elephants, like other large plant-eaters, use bacteria, same as cows or deer.
Posted by Carl Fink  on  Mon Dec 27, 2004  at  11:16 PM
Oh I have a set of writing paper made out of elephant dung too. Such a nice thing to say to your pals in your letter, they love it when it starts with " dear You, I'm writing you with super ecologistic paper made of elephant dung ..."
Posted by Akashka  in  France  on  Wed Jan 05, 2005  at  08:12 AM
Wonderful idea about the elephant dung paper, I'm going to start looking for it now, what a great gift to help others out as well. Thanks
Posted by Peter Crump  in  Australia  on  Thu Aug 09, 2007  at  08:31 PM
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