Jun 22, 2023 - Business

Florida company makes leather from Everglades pythons

A bright royal blue purse with texture from animal skins

A Piper & Skye python-skin purse. Photo courtesy of Inversa

Normally you wouldn't want a constrictor snake wrapped around your shoulder. But what about as an eco-conscious fashion statement?

  • Inversa Leathers makes luxury, high-end leather out of Florida's invasive species, including pythons and lionfish.

What's happening: By creating a market for skins and hides, Florida-based Inversa incentivizes hunters to remove these species from fragile ecosystems.

Why it matters: Pythons have devastated the Everglades by feeding on native mammals, birds and reptiles, causing foxes and rabbits to disappear from the habitat.

  • Lionfish compete for food against native fish like snapper and grouper. They reproduce quickly, have no significant predators here and are wreaking havoc on recreational and commercial fishing.

Details: The company buys python skins through state programs that contract 50–100 regular python hunters who are trained to euthanize snakes humanely.

  • Skins are brought to tanneries in the U.S. and Europe to turn into leather.

What they're saying: "As scuba divers, we saw a need to do something about the lionfish and how most solutions really did nothing to help stop and reverse the damage," Inversa's Head of Development Carlos-Henri Ferré said of the founders' idea for the products.

The big picture: As of January 2023, more than 18,000 pythons have been removed in Florida, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

  • Government-run bounty programs are the only other effective incentive, Ferré said.

By the numbers: Prior to 2017, only about 600 pythons were removed from the Everglades annually. Once the government began paying bounties in 2017, that figure rose to approximately 1,600–3,000 per year, according to the state.

Context: With the demand for snakeskin products, python leather is a billion-dollar industry, Ferré said.

  • However, most python skin comes from Southeast Asia, where people take pythons from their native forests or grow them on farms.

What we're watching: Several companies already make products from Inversa's materials:

  • Piper & Skye: python-skin handbag ($940).
  • Grundéns: lionfish leather sandals ($125).
  • P448: lionfish sneakers ($325).
  • Oleada: lionfish leather laptop sleeve ($245).

Of note: Inversa is sponsoring the 2023 Florida Python Challenge with a $10,000 grand prize, happening Aug. 4–13.

Go deeper: Our Tampa Bay colleagues tried their hand at the challenge last year.


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