The Burmese Python that Destroyed Everglades Ecosystem Is Now Sheer Leather

The world’s first invasive leather brand Inversa Leathers is also the first company to produce leather from the Everglades Burmese python, a certified harmful and destructive species. A conversation with Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Aarav Chavda.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • The Burmese python is an invasive species that has been wreaking havoc in the US state of Florida. There have been many drives by wildlife conservationists to eradicate the species—but the fashion angle is an interesting one.
  • These invasive pythons represent a clear and present danger to the natural balance of the Everglades and its rich native wildlife, causing structural damage to the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s ecosystems.
  • Inversa already produces leather from invasive lionfish and invasive dragonfish species.
Non-native Burmese pythons have established a breeding population in South Florida and are one of the most concerning invasive species in Everglades National Park. Pythons compete with native wildlife for food, which includes mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Severe mammal declines in Everglades National Park have been linked to Burmese pythons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Burmese Python, American Leather Non-native Burmese pythons have established a breeding population in South Florida and are one of the most concerning invasive species in Everglades National Park. Pythons compete with native wildlife for food, which includes mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Severe mammal declines in Everglades National Park have been linked to Burmese pythons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Inversa Leathers

Inversa Leathers has enlisted teams of local and skilled snake wranglers to begin to safely remove certified invasive and destructive reptiles from the Everglades National Park in Florida, US, where tens of thousands of the Burmese pythons have invaded and devour endangered species every day.

These invasive pythons represent a clear and present danger to the natural balance of the Everglades and its rich native wildlife, causing structural damage to the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s ecosystems and the communities that rely on it for their livelihood.

The python invasion of the Everglades has been threatening the well-being of the Everglades’ natural habitats and the native species that live and depend on it. Indiscriminate and voracious eaters, these invasive Burmese pythons eat a wide range of wildlife from songbirds to adult deer and even alligators up to six feet long, ruining the ecosystems of the Everglades. It is widely believed that these reptiles were introduced by accident in 1979 — possibly when a pet escaped or was released into the wild.

Each hide now contributes to protecting up to 90% of native wildlife populations that the invasive Burmese python preys on in the Florida Everglades.

Inversa Leathers is the first company to produce leather from certified invasive, harmful and destructive species such as the Everglade python. Its efforts are backed by the leading agency on the environment and conservation US agency NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), as well supported by the ocean multinational non-profit ORRAA.

Inversa already produces leather from invasive lionfish and invasive dragonfish species.

The Burmese python menace in Florida is well documented. How did the idea of making leather out of these invasive species come about? Could you briefly outline the concept-to-product development? When did this particular project start?
We started with the invasive lionfish since both my Co-Founder Roland and I, have been divers for 10+ years and witnessed first hand the devastation caused by invasive lionfish to the coral reefs.

From there invasive leather was born—leather that revives ecosystems. In this process, we have built a consortium of valued mentors across the conservation and biology fields who advise us on the most devastating invasive species. That's how we learned about the invasive python and the extent of damage they cause.

We started working on the idea of invasive python leather in Spring 2022 and have officially launched it at Lineapelle 2022.

You can't just make leather from just about any species. So, what were the permissions/approvals required for this? What's the full story here?
We are focused on only making leather that actively revives nature. To us—that means removing invasive species that are deteriorating ecosystems around them. Even of invasive species, we focus only on human-introduced, severe impact species.

We rely on our partnerships and advisors from the conservation and biology communities to help us understand which species are best candidates.

We have been able to get approvals and support from major conservation and government organizations such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA), Conservation International, IUCN, and the State of Florida.
 
A press release of yours says: "Each hide contributes to protecting up to 90 per cent of native wildlife populations that the invasive python preys on in the Florida Everglades." Whose numbers are these?
The numbers come from Michael Kirkland, a biologist with the South Florida Water Management District.
 
Inversa has enlisted teams of local and skilled snake wranglers. Could you tell us more? How many people are involved? How many individual pythons are they able to catch? Are they freelancers? Do you collaborate with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on this?
We work with hunters that are each licensed and contracted by either Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or South Florida Water Management District for their work eliminating invasive pythons.

Each hide contributes to protecting up to: 90% of native wildlife populations in the Florida Everglades; 73+ species of known mammals, birds, and reptiles preyed upon by invasive Burmese pythons; and, 1.3 billion dollar economy dependent on the Florida Everglades.
Pythons Get a Hiding Each hide contributes to protecting up to: 90% of native wildlife populations in the Florida Everglades; 73+ species of known mammals, birds, and reptiles preyed upon by invasive Burmese pythons; and, 1.3 billion dollar economy dependent on the Florida Everglades. Inversa Leathers

Ok, a hypothetical question. If you get those one million Burmese pythons, how much leather would that mount to?
Each python can become a hide of leather. We know on average the invasive pythons caught are 8ft; so one million invasive pythons would equate to 8 million ft of leather.
 
How different is python leather compared to cattle leather? Could you give us an idea... in terms of durability, the treatment needed, the chemicals used, etc?
The python leather is traditionally classified as an exotic leather, and its performance metrics are therefore compared to other exotics (such as alligator, crocodile, ostrich, etc) rather than bovine.  Invasive python leather maintains the same performance characteristics you can expect from traditional farmed python leather.  When compared to other traditional exotic leathers, invasive python leather is extremely flexible, making it very resistant to creasing.
 
There's a whole range of partners that you work with... from NOAA to ORRAA. Could you tell us more about these partnerships?
NOAA has sponsored Inversa’s leather market development efforts. As some of the foremost experts in the environment and conservation, NOAA has for years encouraged efforts to better manage invasive species. ORRAA is a project sponsor of Inversa’s, encouraging the building of a robust lionfish supply chain out of developing and rural portions of the Caribbean. For now, Conservation International, the State of Florida, and other groups have expressed their public approvals of Inversa’s activities, but as of now we cannot specifically comment on how a more specific partnership is developing.

 

We are focused on only making leather that actively revives nature. To us—that means removing invasive species that are deteriorating ecosystems around them. Even of invasive species, we focus only on human-introduced, severe impact species. We rely on our partnerships and advisors from the conservation and biology communities to help us understand which species are best candidates.

Aarav Chavda
Aarav Chavda / Co-Founder & CEO / Inversa Leathers

Subir Ghosh

SUBIR GHOSH is a Kolkata-based independent journalist-writer-researcher who writes about environment, corruption, crony capitalism, conflict, wildlife, and cinema. He is the author of one book, and has co-authored three with others. He writes, edits, reports and designs. He is also a professionally trained and qualified photographer.

 
 
 
  • Dated posted: 14 October 2022
  • Last modified: 14 October 2022