Ayako Nakamura learned something at a Thai animal park that changed her life: how to make paper from elephant dung.
She had worked at zoos for more than 10 years, so she knew how profitable elephants can be for their keepers. And she knew about the ivory trade. She says, I wanted to give something back to elephants.
In Japan she refined her paper-making with help from a traditional washi craftsman. Now she organises events and workshops, and provides paper for artists.
She has just closed a show at Gallery Kissa in Asakusabashi.
Gallery owner Yoshinari Takimoto is a part-time physicist and software engineer who caught the bug for elephant dung paper. He provided her with a high-power blender that lets her work with even the toughest dung.
Different zoos have different diets so the elephants make different dung, she says. She lets you hold paper from elephants at Gunma Safari Park, and some from Obihiro Zoo in Hokkaido. One is much smoother than the other.
The zoos send her the dung.
Takimoto says, She tells them to write Vegetables on the box.
Nakamura is working toward her third trip to Africa. She camps outdoors within leaping distance of lions. It’s a good thing for the elephant paper industry that she travels with a veteran wildlife photographer who seems to know what he’s doing.