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Wombat-Generated Paper a Tourist Favorite in Tasmania

Wombat droppings are helping an industrial town in the Australian state of Tasmania to fight the effects of the global financial crisis. Burnie has been hit by repeated rounds of job cuts but despite the gloom, one local industry is growing rapidly - producing handmade paper out of a material no one else wants - wombat dung.

The novelty paper has been a hit with tourists, who are keen to buy a distinctly Australian souvenir from their trip to northwestern Tasmania.

The wombat lives in the wild only in Australia. In its own small way, the furry marsupial is doing its bit to help the beleaguered community of Burnie, which has seen the loss of hundreds of jobs as the national economy slides into reverse.

The port city of 20,000 has a reputation as one of Australia's premier papermaking centers.

In recent years, an enterprising company has been experimenting with paper made from kangaroo droppings but its popularity has been eclipsed by wombat products.

Darren Simpson, the manager of Creative Paper, says the production process can be rather unpleasant.

"When we are boiling it, it does smell horrific as you can imagine, but once it has been sterilized and rinsed properly there's no scent left to it. If anything, it just gives you a nice organic smell. The whole wombat idea came from the tourists themselves," he said. "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 of the paper is made from the dung of a single animal called Nugget, who 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. Their diets loaded with plant fiber make their feces, which the animals use in the wild to mark their territory, ideal for making some of Australia's most unusual paper.

Their characteristic waddle and playful appearance make these sturdy marsupials one of the country's most endearing native creatures.