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Tasmania's wombat poo paper a hit

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

wombat (file photo)
The wombat's plant diet makes its droppings suitable for paper-making

Wombat droppings are helping an industrial city in Australia fight the effects of the global financial crisis.

Burnie, in the north-west of the state of Tasmania, has been hit by repeated rounds of job cuts.

But despite the gloom, one local industry is thriving by producing handmade paper out of a material no-one else wants - wombat poo.

The novelty paper is a hit with tourists keen to buy a distinctly Australian souvenir from the area.

The wombat, a furry marsupial, lives in the wild only in Australia.

Its characteristic waddle and playful appearance, makes it one of the country's most endearing native creatures.

'Nice organic smell'

In recent years, a company in the port city has been experimenting with paper made from kangaroo droppings - but its popularity has been eclipsed by wombat-inspired products.

Creative Paper manager Darren Simpson says the manufacturing process can be rather unpleasant.

WOMBAT FACTS
Herbivorous marsupial or pouched mammal
About 1 metre (40 in) in length
Tends to graze at night
Produces cube-shaped dung
Closest relative is koala

"When we are boiling it, it does smell horrific as you can imagine, but once it has been sterilised and rinsed properly there's no scent left to it. If anything it just gives you a nice organic smell," he said.

He added that it was the tourists themselves who came up with the wombat idea.

"As people were coming through and we were showing them the samples of our paper, they would throw questions at you like 'can you make it from sheep poo or can you make it from koalas?'. And the one that kept popping up more than any other was the wombat."

All the paper is made from the dung of a single animal called Nugget that lives in a wildlife park near Cradle Mountain, one of Tasmania's most popular tourist destinations.

Every day Nugget's droppings are collected by his keeper and sent off to the factory.

Wombats are herbivores and diets loaded with plant fibre make their faeces ideal for making some of Australia's most unusual paper.



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