February 18, 2009
The invasive paihamu, a bushtail possum, now occupies more than 99 percent of New Zealand; at 70 million, there are 17 paihamu for every man, woman and child. It eats 20,000 tons of vegetation nightly and New Zealand pastoralists see it as a threat to their livestock since the animal can carry tuberculosis. But rather than keep tossing dollars at trying to control this problem, a group of trappers, manufacturers and industry people have formed the New Zealand Fur Council with the goal of using the private market as a solution, says Chrys Hutchings, owner of Eco-Luxury Fur.
The council is working on realistic and practical solutions that include harvesting the pelts, leather, fur fiber and meat to create goods for the world market. The premier U.S. importer, Eco-Luxury Fur, heralds luxurious paihamu fur throws, pillows and rugs as the "softer side of leather."
Even though, the best 10 percent of fur hides are used for pillows, throws, rugs and clothing, the economic bulk is in the remaining 90 percent, which is taken in the form of fur fiber, says Hutchings:
- In 2009, 100,000 kilograms of fiber will be recovered, reducing the paihamu population by 2 million.
- The fiber will be used in the new wool/fur yarns hybrid in an industry valued at $NZ10 million ($6 million) at wholesale, estimated at $NZ70 million ($43 million) retail and growing at an impressive pace.
- Not only are the wool and fur sourced from New Zealand, but the products are manufactured in New Zealand; thus, keeping costs down.
Moreover, use of the paihamu fiber also allows separate sale of the leather, believed to be the second strongest in the world. Such hides should appeal to leather-loving conservationists as they yield conservation gains for each item sold, says Hutchings.
Source: Chrys Hutchings, "Money Grows on Trees in New Zealand," Property and Environment Research Center Reports, Vol. 26, No. 4, December 2008.
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