Wildlife photographers are always looking for unique ways to attract buyers for their prints. Is it possible to use elephant dung paper for wildlife prints?
I have done several prints on elephant poop paper and have been very pleased with the results.
What is elephant dung paper?
Elephant dung paper is an organic and sustainable material made from pulp fibers.
There are no tree products in the paper which is made 100% from natural fibers. The mixture is usually 85% dung and 15% other natural fibers including the waste products from corn, bananas and coconuts.
There are no chemicals added to this innovative product which makes it environmentally friendly and in line with the global effort to halt deforestation.
Can you print on elephant dung paper?
This green, eco-friendly alternative to traditional tree pulp paper products is great fun to print on.
You can not only print on it with your personal laser jet printer, it is also compatible with large commercial offset printers.
I took the image of the bull elephant below to a fine-art printer who wanted to experiment with elephant dung paper that they had imported from Thailand.
What characteristics of elephant dung make for good printing paper?
What makes elephant dung a good substitute for traditional paper materials like tree pulp, is that it is entirely made up of organic fibers.
Elephants are herbivores and the African elephant eats between 150 and 170 kg (330-375 lb) of vegetation every day.
Much of this is passed through them as waste. This is because their digestive systems are very poor.
It is therefore possible to harvest large amounts of fibrous material from elephant poop, as most of the vegetation that they eat comes straight back out as dung.
The bull elephant pictured below was photographed in the Kruger National Park.
Does elephant dung paper smell?
No, it doesn’t smell bad.
If anything, it smells like ordinary paper with maybe a hint of tea! Not sure why that is but possibly because the large amount of leafy material present in the raw ingredients.
How textured is elephant dung paper
The paper is very textured indeed.
Each sheet also has some natural flaws in it which is understandable given the material used, and the environmentally friendly manufacturing process.
Take a look at the close up image below.
Can you frame elephant dung paper?
You can frame the paper as you would any other paper.
The challenge is framing it in such a way as not to lose the organic look of the textured paper.
I have not struck on the ideal method but I am starting to think that mounting it on a plain matte board without adding glass may be the way to go.
What other products can be made with elephant dung fibers?
There are an increasing number of elephant dung applications being created.
Most people are looking for novel yet environmentally friendly gifts, so items made organically without added chemicals are very popular.
It can be used in notepads, gift cards, stationery and even as an alternative way of making artificial flower arrangements.
You can take a look at some of them on Amazon.
The link is for your information only – I do not earn any commissions.
How is elephant dung paper made?
Making the paper takes quite a long time as the process is not mechanized in any way.
Here is a summary of the steps.
The first, and very important, step is to clean the raw material. This is done initially by hand with the removal of large twigs, stones etc .
Then the material is boiled for up to six hours until the fibers become soft – rather like a poop porridge!
Any harmful bacteria are killed off during this boiling process so the fibers are completely hygienic at this point.
No additional chemicals are added during the process and the used water is recycled.
The mixing process ensures that the combined ingredients can bond together in such a way that a strong sheet of paper can be made.
This is where the waste by products of things like sugar cane, coconut and/or corn are added.
The elephant dung paper that I used for printing wildlife images is not colored. The natural color is off white with some specs of organic material in it.
The paper can however be colored in any shade imaginable using non toxic food colorants that are 100% safe.
First invented in China in 105 AD, screening is the traditional method of making paper.
The paper mixture is poured onto a framed screen, spread out evenly and then left to dry in the sun.
Once the screens are in the sun the paper forms once the pulp is totally dry.
The time this takes depends on the size of the sheet being made as well as the ambient temperature and amount of sunlight.
Once the sheet is dry, it is peeled off by hand.
I think that using elephant dung paper for printing adds another dimension to my work.
Even if you are not someone that prints your work regularly, I definitely recommend that you try this.
A print on dung paper certainly makes a unique, environmentally friendly, gift.