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BLOOMINGTON — Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but dung is running a close second.

The enterprising “gem”ologists at Miller Park Zoo now are offering necklace pendants from dried reindeer droppings, joining the explosively popular ornaments that debuted last year.

“We kept hearing from people who were buying the ornaments, ‘Do you have any jewelry?’” said Susie Ohley, spokeswoman for the Miller Park Zoological Society.

The limited-edition Magical Reindeer Gem necklaces will go on sale Friday for $15 each at the gift shop, 1020 S. Morris Ave., or for $20 by mail. Gift shop hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily except Christmas.

“We thought we would make them available for the big shopping day,” Ohley said. “It maybe silly, but it not only brings in money and support to the zoo, (but) it brings people smiles.”

Last year, volunteers dehydrated and sterilized piles of the dime-sized dung, then spray-painted them with glitter and strung them on wire with beads to create “Magical Reindeer Gems.”

After word spread across the country, the gift shop couldn’t keep the ornaments in stock.

About 450 ornaments have sold already this season. They sell for $7.50 at the gift shop or $10 by mail.

The dung is nothing to sniff at: If all 2,000 ornaments and 100 necklaces are sold, Ohley estimated proceeds of about $16,500.

The zoo’s $1.3 million budget was cut by about $200,000 this year as part of the city’s efforts to balance its $77 million general operating budget.



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