Doting on dung

mike bugara, a villager of Mount Kenya in Kenya, has been an ardent conser-vationist. Inspired by the papyrus of the ancient Egyptians who made paper from leaves of maize, banana and eucalyptus trees, Bugara opted for an indigenous material: elephant dung! He boiled pot-fulls of elephant dung in his yard for making paper (New Scientist , Vol 153, No 2064).

Bugara obtained elephant dung for the first time from farmers whose fields were raided by elephants, and hit upon the method after some experimentation. He boiled dung balls for softening them, then washed the boiled dung till the desired colour was obtained (washing produced a lighter shade of brown). This was followed by pounding the resulting loose fibres with a mortar and pestle into thinner, more pliable pieces until the mass reached a state of 'porridge-like' consistency. The fibres were then soaked in a tank of water before spreading them on a screen. Then, the raw paper was left to dry in the sun.

Although the finished paper was thick, it could be ideally used as a drawing sheet. Bugaro used these sheets to paint pictures of Kenya's wildlife. After refining the technique of making this dung paper, Bugara approached the Kenyan wildlife service for support. They have not only supplied him with raw material but have also commissioned him to produce invitation cards made from elephant dung paper for the wildlife service's 50th anniversary celebrations, along with a special map of Kenya painted on the card, which is to be presented to the country's president.