Panda poo paper yields profits for Thai zoo
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.