In the Asia Pacific, two countries are driving an epic and increasing slaughter of rhinos around the world – China and Vietnam – where consumers buy rhino horn for a variety of reasons, causing an extinction and poaching crisis for all rhinos despite the horn having zero medicinal value. But in India, one of the few places with a steady rhino population based on years of successful conservation, a father and daughter team has a unique way to help their area greater one-horned rhinos: they are selling products made from their dung.
In Assam State, where the rhinos’ largest population center exists, perilously close to China, the top rhino horn consumer country, Elrhino Paper is a new company that over the last seven years has been turning rhino waste into paper products, according to a report from Mongabay, the online environmental/conservation news site. Mahesh and Nisha Bora say with Elrhino, they’re showing conservation can be sustainable, demonstrating how communities surrounding the rhinos can benefit from keeping them safe and protected. It’s an important mission, too, and close animal human contact with rhinos that stray from forests in protected areas has led to conflicts with farmers who sometimes find crops trampled or eaten.
But on the upside, with the high density of rhinos in a small area, there’s a lot of rhino dung to be found, and local villagers gather it up, and Elrhino pays the villagers for the rhino waste, a way to try and make up for damaged or eaten crops. Mongabay called it a ‘poop to paper company’, and quoted CEO Nisha Bora who said of the arrangement with the villagers “We ensure that not only are they compensated for their contribution, but also made aware on the importance of rhinos”. Elrhino turns the rhino poop into paper, and they do the same with droppings from area elephants; since both rhinos and elephants eat a lot of grass, the fiber lends itself to a fine paper product, and as Mahesh told Mongabay, it leaves the resulting paper with “its distinct texture and intrinsic character.” The material supplies luxury paper products sold around the world as not only paper, but in notebooks, day planners, bags, lampshades, photo frames and other items, all made from rhino poop, and supporting local communities who live around the rhinos in India. They can be found online at elrhinopaper.com.