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Ho Chi Minh City zoo uses elephant dung to make paper

Ho Chi Minh City zoo uses elephant dung to make paper

Tuesday, July 05, 2022, 13:03 GMT+7
Ho Chi Minh City zoo uses elephant dung to make paper
Two students from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HUTECH) show their final products of paper made from elephant dung. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Ho Chi Minh City recently collaborated with a group of Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HUTECH) students in transforming elephant dung into paper.

After eight months of research, the first elephant dung papers were produced. 

Even though some of them cannot be used, the crew has been continuously developing chemical-free procedures to make paper from elephant excrement in order to raise awareness of wildlife protection.

Zookeepers at Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens collect elephant dung at the animal’s enclosure. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Zookeepers at Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens collect elephant dung at the animal’s enclosure. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Elephants consume primarily grass and vegetables, therefore their feces are clumpy and high in fiber. In the past, their excrement was either discarded or used as fertilizer.

According to Dang Kieu Anh, a HUTECH major in animal husbandry, the group recycles excrement into paper every weekend.

“The first step in turning elephant dung into paper is washing the waste to remove impurities, leaving only the fiber for recycling," Anh said.

Mai Khac Trung Truc, director of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, washes the elephant dung. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Mai Khac Trung Truc, director of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, washes the elephant dung. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

“Following this, the fiber will be boiled to eliminate bacteria and odor.

"The boiled fiber will then be sun-dried and blended. 

“The blended fiber will be mixed with water, paper pulp, and tapioca starch.

“The final products will be obtained by pouring the mixture into a mold and exposing it to the sun for drying."

The blended elephant dung is being mixed with paper pulp and tapioca starch. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

The blended elephant dung is being mixed with paper pulp and tapioca starch. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Mai Khac Trung Truc, director of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, stated that some countries have already succeeded in producing paper from elephant dung, which is an excellent idea considering the declining forest area and the decreasing number of elephants in the wild and in captivity.

"With the aim to recycle elephant dung, the product may inspire everyone to work together to protect the environment and elephants," Truc said.

“Every 100 grams of mixed elephant dung may typically be recycled into seven to eight sheets of paper with the same thickness.

“To make the paper more usable, we are now studying methods to enhance its quality. 

“We have no plans to sell the sheets to the public.

"We will supply paper for children's educational materials."

A student pours the mixture of elephant dung into a tray. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

A student pours the mixture of elephant dung into a tray. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Students filter the mixture through a mold, leaving paper paste residue. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Students filter the mixture through a mold, leaving paper paste residues. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

The finished products of elephant dung paper. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

The finished products of elephant dung paper. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

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