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6 Unexpected Uses For Animal Dung

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Get excited! From fertilizer to fuel to flaming baggies on doorsteps, you probably know all the standard uses for dung. But apparently there's a whole world of crap you don't know. The following are 6 unexpected ways to make the most of animal dung.

1. Crocs and Birth Control

In 2000 BC, Egyptian physicians recommended using pessaries of crocodile dung as a spermicide. While this ancient birth control method is no doubt unavailable at your local pharmacy, you can probably ask your local crocodile to provide it under the table.

2. Elephants and Paper Products

elephant.jpgSince elephants only digest 45% of their food, and the waste product is mostly fiber, the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Northern Thailand has developed a method for making elephant dung into paper. The paper is later cut and fashioned into handmade notebooks. Amazingly, an elephant can generate enough dung to make 115 pages of paper a day (or an 1/8th of a Stephen King novel).

As for the process, papermakers boil the fibers for sterilization before spinning and framing them into paper. Of course, elephants aren't the only ones getting into the stationery business. In Thailand, Panda Poop Paper is also quite popular, and the Welsh company Sheep Poo Paper has also managed to make paper from, you guessed it, sheep dung.

Got stockpiles of llama, bat, moose or flying squirrel droppings? Read on...

3. Llamas to Fight Pollution

llamas.jpgOddly enough, in Bolivia, llama dung is being used to combat pollution in the water supply from abandoned mines. The microbes living in the dung neutralize the acidic water and remove dissolved metals like iron, neutralizing the pH of the water. This filtration method isn't unique to Bolivia, though. The technique was originally developed in the United Kingdom through use of cattle and horse manure.

4. Bats to Fight Wars

batcave1.jpgUp until World War I, bat caves were essential resources, providing American soldiers with materials for gunpowder and explosives. That's because dried bat guano consists largely of saltpeter (potassium nitrate). In fact, it's been used by the United States as early as the War of 1812 for making gunpowder. Bat droppings also played a major role in prolonging the Civil War. During the conflict, nearly every substantial Gray Bat cave in the South was harvested for its guano, and the Confederacy relied on these caves as a source for saltpeter long after supply lines were cut off.

5. Moose Droppings for Tourists

moosepoopearrings.jpgMoose droppings are made into souvenirs in Alaska, Maine, Colorado and Canada. In fact, Talkeetna, Alaska has an annual Moose Dropping Festival every July. Highlights of the event include the Moose Dropping Drop Game, where numbered nuggets of moose dropping are tossed out of a helicopter and participants place bets on where they will land. There's also a Moose Poop Toss Game. And bagpipers. Really! Typical moose poop souvenirs include Moose Poop earrings, Moose Nugget swizzle sticks, Moose Poop tie tacks, and Moose Poop mugs.

6. Flying Squirrel Cures

flyingsquirrel.jpgWu Ling Zhi, or Feces Trogopterori Seu Pteromi, is flying squirrel dung used in Chinese medicine for abdominal pain, childhood nutritional deficiencies, and certain insect or snake bites. The primary use for flying squirrel crap, though, is alleviation of female reproductive system problems such as post-partum abdominal pain and menstrual cramps. Described as bitter, sweet, and warm, it's served in a decoction (steeped, like tea). Interested in trying flying squirrel dung? Unfortunately, it's banned in the United States. Stick to ibuprofen.

Previously on mental_floss:

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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