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Sri Lanka Pushing Stationary Made of Dung

July 26, 2004

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A Sri Lankan company that made personalized stationery for President Bush from paper made of elephant dung is asking people to use its products to help the country’s dwindling elephant population.

Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had presented Bush with a box of elephant dung writing paper, envelopes and name cards in a visit to Washington in July 2002.

The elephant is the symbol of Bush’s Republican Party, but it was not immediately known whether he has used the paper. Sheets have a unique color and texture, depending on the diet, age and dental health of the elephant that has produced the dung, said Rohan Martis, a marketer for the company, Maximus.

``We produce the paper using 75 percent elephant dung,″ Martis told The Associated Press on Monday. ``Fully digested fiber gives the paper a smooth finish, while half digested fiber makes the paper coarser.″

Much of the company’s supply of elephant dung comes from an elephant orphanage at Pinnawela, about 46 miles east of Colombo, which houses 62 elephants.

``Our orphanage produces six truck loads of elephant dung,″ said S. Mendis, the veterinarian, ``So you see there is no problem with supply.″

Such paper is also made in Thailand, where elephants are domesticated and used for work.

``In buying and using this paper you are making a contribution to the care of this magnificent animal, which is being driven to extinction by loss of its natural habitat,″ Martis said.

Some 10,000-15,000 elephants roamed Sri Lanka’s jungles a century ago, but only 3,000 remain, largely because of deforestation and hunting by ivory poachers.

Another 500 have been domesticated and live in Buddhist temples, sanctuaries or transit homes where they are treated for wounds and sent back into the wild.

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