Native forests in New Zealand are being munched to death by millions of opossums. Introduced from Australia in the mid-1800s, the furry creatures have no natural predators in New Zealand. It is estimated that they are now 70 million strong and consume 20,000 tons of foliage every night.
Although hunting and poison have been used to control their numbers, it appears that a market-based solution may be the most effective. Sir Peter Elworthy, a prominent farmer, has started an eco-textile industry using opossum fur.
The fur is woven into a lightweight fabric dubbed Kapua that has the warmth of cashmere and the appearance of merino wool. If Kapua fashions are a hit in American department stores, they could help preserve New Zealand’s native forests while also warding off the winter chills.