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8 unexpected uses of elephant manure

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With huge ears, ivory tusks, and a long trunk, the African elephant is the largest land animal on earth. A bull elephant can grow up to 13 feet tall and weigh over 13,000 pounds, and when you’re that big, it takes a lot of food to keep you full! An elephant’s diet of roots, herbs, fruits, leaves, and bark is not rich in nutrients, which means it should prioritize quantity over quality. A truly hungry adult elephant can consume up to 600 pounds of food in a single day (although it typically weighs around 300 pounds). These voracious appetites mean that an elephant spends up to 16 hours a day eating. If you combine that with the huge distances they travel to find the amounts of food needed to support their massive body, that means there isn’t much time left for sleep!

Now let’s face it, what comes in has to come out, and with whatever it eats, elephants can produce up to 220 pounds of dung in a day (to put that in perspective, the average giant panda weighs 220 pounds!) There is an old saying, “Don’t waste, don’t want” and with such amounts of “waste” it’s no surprise that people have found creative uses for the things that come out of the back. ‘an elephant.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do with all that poop.

Dung Paper Photo Frame (Photo credit: Sarah Kingdom)

1. Paper

This one is my personal favorites.

Elephants have a rather inefficient digestive system, digesting only about 45% of what they eat. Elephants are herbivores, with a diet very high in fiber, so much of this undigested material passes through them pretty much intact. Plain paper is made from wood fiber pulp, but a similar pulp can be derived from elephant dung fibers.

Nampath Paper is one of 17 Kenyan companies that produce paper from elephant dung. John Matano of Nampath explained the process: “After washing, the clean fibers remain. Then the fiber is boiled for four hours in a tub to make sure it is perfectly clean. Then much of the process is similar to making plain paper. Matano goes on to say, “125 sheets of A4 paper can be produced from 50 kg (110 lb)”, which the average elephant excretes every day!

While the ‘poop paper’ might have a slightly different texture than what we’re used to, I definitely think it’s worth a try! Manure can also be made into crafts and souvenirs.

Bottle of Gin made from elephant dung with Elephant in the background.
Gin Ndlovu

2. Can I interest you in something to drink?

You’ve probably heard of those (somewhat unethical) coffee beans that pass through the digestive system of caged civets. The beans are collected from the civet waste; then washed, dried and roasted, before being sold for crazy sums. Someone in Thailand had a similar idea but on a large scale! Instead of civets, a herd of captive elephants excrete coffee beans that are turned into coffee. Black Ivory Coffee produces about 475 pounds a year of what they call “the world’s rarest coffee” and serves it at five-star resorts across Asia and the Middle East. The fermentation process elephants use to digest the cellulose in their food apparently brings out the sweet and fruity flavors of the beans and makes the coffee taste like chocolate and cherry – but at $ 120 for just over a gram, I have to. be honest and say I haven’t tasted it! (I’ve heard a rumor that for $ 500 a pound, the only store outside of Asia that sells it is somewhere in Texas).

As far as I know, no one produces elephant coffee in Africa, but there is definitely something I can suggest adding to your beverage cabinet or your next appetizers – Indlovu Gin. This is a gin infused with “botanicals sought after by elephants” and sourced from their poop. The elephant dung is dried and goes through a disinfection process, then rinsed and dried again, before the final dry product is infused into the gin. Does it taste like poo, you will ask? Les Ansley, who together with his wife founded Indlovu Gin said: “It has an earthy, herbaceous-like flavor… depending on where we collect the plants or the elephants from which we collect the plants, the flavor of the gin goes slightly. switch. At $ 34 a bottle (with 15 percent of proceeds donated to the Africa Foundation to support elephant conservation), it’s a fond memory of your travels in Africa.

If you are looking for another elephant themed drink. let me show you the direction of the Japanese brewery Sankt Gallen and its beer called Un Kono Kuro, it is made from coffee beans passed through an elephant, before undergoing alcoholic fermentation. The beer was so successful that initial stocks sold out online within minutes of launch.

Elephant dung burns in the back of a safari to ward off flies.
Sarah’s Kingdom

3. Insect repellent

The African bush is an amazing place to spend time, but you may find that you are sharing the bush with a group of unwanted visiting insects – from tsetse flies biting ankles on a safari to mosquitoes buzzing around your ears. the night. And what if you don’t have insect repellent?

Luckily, I’m not going to advise you to rub elephant poop! But what I’m going to suggest is that you find the nearest piece of dried elephant dung and turn it on. By burning a lump of dried manure, you can drive off most of these buzzing buggers, and the smell is much less offensive than most of these sprays.

Zambia’s Kafue National Park is famous for its tsetse flies, and it can really ruin your afternoon safari when those leeches rush in to inflict painful and itchy bites on you. My first encounter with elephant dung as an insect repellant was at Mukambi Safari Lodge, where our guide hung a box of steaming elephant dung on the back of our safari vehicle, and biting flies, which always appear to be find me particularly tasty, disappeared, Almost instantly.

4. A source of water

I sincerely hope you never find yourself in the situation where extracting a few drops of moisture from a piece of fresh elephant poop is your only chance for survival. But let me tell you if you ever get lost or stranded, and out of the water (in a place where elephants roam) the solution is at hand. Take yourself a handful of fresh elephant dung and squeeze it! But won’t that make me sick, you ask? No, elephant dung is surprisingly low in bacteria, and let’s face it, any water is probably better than nothing in an emergency!

Children sitting by the pool at a hunting lodge in Zimbabwe watching elephants.
Somalisa Hwange National Park (Photo credit: African Bush Camps)

5. Medicinal

Elephants eat a wide variety of fruits and foliage. Traditional healers use many of these same herbs in natural remedies. Elephant droppings can actually be used as a pain reliever. Simply inhaling the smoke from smoldering elephant dung is said to work wonders on headaches or toothaches, and it is also said to work to stop nosebleeds and unblock it. sinuses.

6. Fertilizers

Subsistence farmers have used elephant dung as a fertilizer for generations. With such a poor digestive system, elephant dung makes excellent compost.

7. Biogas

Some zoos and sanctuaries are starting to use elephant dung, which, with the help of biogas digesters, can be used to produce gas for stoves, heat, and even electricity. With the large amount of “material” that elephants provide, they are perfect candidates for this process. Digesters break down organic waste and recover the methane and carbon dioxide produced, the bio-sludge created as a by-product is an excellent fertilizer.

8. A home for wildlife

Granted, this latest use of elephant manure isn’t really for us humans, but a lump of elephant manure is home to many creatures. Scientists call elephants “ecosystem engineers”. Their feast of trees and shrubs in the forests creates pathways for small animals, and in the savannas, they uproot trees and eat saplings, helping to keep the landscape open for plains animals to thrive. Many insects have made their home in elephant droppings, including beetles, scorpions, crickets, termites, and centipedes. As well as being a highly nutritious home for these little creatures, it also benefits those who, in turn, want to eat these creatures. Honey badgers, mongooses, monkeys and a variety of birds will scratch all the piles of droppings, nibbling on any insects and larvae they find. To top it off, elephant dung is full of seeds, helping to spread the plants far and wide.

Dried elephant dung on the back of a safari.
Sarah’s Kingdom

Bonus: when you can’t find an apple

There you have my suggestions on what to do with elephant poop the next time you’re on safari. I admit I was tempted to add a number 9 to this list and call it “A Perfect Gift”, but I knew my youngest son would never forgive me! He just turned 20, but not so long ago we were on a family safari and a little voice came from the back seat of the car, asking us to stop because he wanted to “give a gift for Miss Sarah. “Miss Sarah was the preschool teacher and Tom had a crush on her. For some reason my then 3 year old son thought that the safest way for Miss Sarah’s heart was to present her with a giant piece of elephant poop when he returned from vacation! We stopped. The piece of poo has been carefully selected. And to give credit to Miss Sarah, she received the offering very graciously a few days later.

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