One of the most novel wildlife initiatives in Sri Lanka in recent years has been the invention of pachyderm paper: paper made from elephant dung. As well as their many remarkable abilities, elephants are also a kind of paper factory on legs. During feeding, they ingest a huge amount of fibre which is then pulped in the stomach and delivered in fresh dollops of dung, ready prepared for the manufacture of paper. The dung is dried in the sun and boiled, and the resultant pulp used to make high-quality stationery. The texture and colour vary according to the elephants’ diet, while other ingredients including tea, flowers, paddy husks and onion peel are also added according to the required finish. More than just a novelty stationery item, pachyderm paper could prove an important source of income to locals – and thus a significant help in conservation measures.

You can see the paper being made and buy a range of pachyderm paper products at the Pinnewala Elephant Dung Paper Products factory, on the side road to the elephant bathing spot near Greenland Guesthouse. Elephant paper is also available at the small shop by the elephant bathing spot, at the Millennium Elephant Foundation.

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