The China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan province will provide the droppings and leftover food－mainly bamboo－of its pandas to a papermaking company to make toilet paper and other paper products.
Under an agreement signed on Saturday, the center will provide droppings and excess bamboo free from its three bases－in the Wolong National Nature Reserve and two Sichuan cities, Dujiangyan and Ya'an－to Sichuan Qianwei Fengsheng Paper Co.
The center provides about 25 kilograms of bamboo to each adult panda every day. Of that, the bear will eat about 11 kilograms－the most delicious parts. The rest is chewed up during the process.
Because a panda's digestive function is not good, about 10 kilograms will pass through the body to become droppings that consist mainly of undigested bamboo, according to Zhang Hemin, executive director of the center.
About six months ago, the center began providing panda droppings and bamboo leftovers to the paper company so it could experiment. The price for the paper is hefty: A box of tissue paper, for example, is expected to cost about 43 yuan (.50).
The center is home to 270 pandas. In the past, after keepers cleared all the droppings and uneaten bamboo, the center would hire workers to take the material away. Now, the paper company will send people to transport the waste every three to seven days.
In 2007, the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan was the first in the country to provide free panda droppings to a company to make souvenirs such as fans, notebooks and bookmarks, hoping to dispose of the waste of its 60 pandas.
The inspiration came from a visit to the Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand that year by Huang Xiangming, chief of the research base's animal management department. The zoo used the droppings of a pair of Chinese pandas from Huang's base to make paper items that were popular with visitors.
But the company soon gave up production because its products did not sell well at the Chengdu base, according to Pu Anning, chief of the base's general office.