One of the first thing one hears about Sophie The Giraffe is that she is made of "100 percent natural rubber derived from the sap of the Hevea tree".
I must admit that prior to my getting involved with Sophie la girafe, I did not know much about rubber and Hevea tree.
Since then I found out that Rubber is a name given to a lot of different polymers that are all elastomers. That means that they can be stretched out and they will return to their original shape when you let go.
One of the tests Sophie The Giraffe goes through is the Streching test ( or so I call it!). She is stretched to her maximum, completely deformed and yet she comes out of that exercise as if nothing happened!
The first natural kind of rubber comes from the sap of hevea trees in Central America. Ancient Mayans and Aztecs harvested it and used it to make waterproof boots and the balls that they used to play their ritual game of Mesoamerican HipBall.
Rubber was introduced to Europe 1744 by Charles Marie de La Condamine a French explorer, geographer, and mathematician who discovered rubber in Peru while originally sent there in 1735 "to determine the length of a degree of the meridian in the neighborhood of the equator". He also gave us the word "latex" for it (Latin for Fluid).
The word "Rubber" was adopted when people in Britain figured out that the latex could be used to erase or "rub out" mistakes made with a pencil.
Sophie's Rubber is made from the sap-like extract Latex. It is a complex emulsion in which proteins, alkaloids, starches, sugars, oils, tannins, resins, and gums are found. In most plants, latex is white, but some have yellow, orange, or scarlet latex.
The Hevea trees Sophies are made of are in Asia.
There are many types of rubbers. If the topic interests you, have a look here or here. ^__^
So how is the Rubber collected?
Each night a rubber tapper removes a thin layer of bark along a downward half spiral on the tree trunk. If done carefully and with skill, this tapping panel will yield latex for up to 5 years. The spiral allow the latex to run down to a collecting cup. The work is done at night so the latex will run longer before drying out.