Panda poo pa­per yields prof­its for Thai zoo

Edmonton Journal - - WOR LD -

CHI­ANG MAI, THAIL AND / There’s the Panda Ex­press fast-food chain, mas­cot Jing Jing for the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, the forth­com­ing an­i­mated movie Kung Fu Panda and even a Mex­i­can rock band named af­ter the cud­dly bear.

Not to be out­done, Thai­land has come up with yet an­other, seem­ingly un­likely way to cap­i­tal­ize on the glob­ally loved, bam­boo-munch­ing an­i­mal — panda poo.

When keep­ers of the coun­try’s panda cou­ple — Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui — tired of dis­pos­ing the 25 kilo­grams of fe­ces daily pro­duced by the duo, Prasert­sak Bun­trag­ulpoontawee came up with the idea of turn­ing it into note­books, fans, book­marks and key chains.

“At first the Chi­nese were very skep­ti­cal,” said the head of Chi­ang Mai Zoo’s panda unit, re­fer­ring to the pro­pri­etary at­ti­tude China takes to­ward its iconic an­i­mal.

But the mul­ti­coloured pa­per prod­ucts have proven hot sell­ing-items at the zoo, with the equiv­a­lent of about $9,350 Cdn earned to date help­ing bal­ance the ac­counts of panda keep­ing.

The Thai gov­ern­ment pays the equiv­a­lent of $285,000 a year to China’s Wu­long Panda Re­search In­sti­tute to rent the pan­das, who, de­pend­ing on the weather, re­side in ei­ther a $1-mil­lion, air-con­di­tioned cage or an ex­ten­sive, fan-cooled out­door en­clo­sure ringed by a minireplica of China’s Great Wall.

Panda poo pa­per pro­duc­tion in­volves a day-long process of clean­ing the fe­ces, boil­ing it in a soda so­lu­tion, bleach­ing it with chlo­rine and dry­ing it un­der the sun. Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion con­tin­ues on how to re­duce the chem­i­cals used.

Prasert­sak said he was in­spired by sa pa­per, or mul­berry leaf pa­per, a tra­di­tional prod­uct which has proven a highly pop­u­lar gift item.

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