Art and the Illegal Trade of Mongooses
Humans may choose to give their lives for art, but a mongoose shouldn’t have to. These fascinating beings are still being illegally hunted for use in paintbrushes, despite protections going back as far as 1972.
Photo: M. MACEWEN/OSF/
Mongooses are small, feisty, cat-like mammals. The 34 species of Mongooses vary in weight from .6-11 pounds, and in length from 7-27 inches long. They’re native to southern Europe, Africa and Asia, where they live in communal packs of up to 50 animals, sharing tasks like childcare and hunting.
They typically live in burrows with complex tunnels, but can also live in rock crevices, trees, and around rivers. They generally have 1-5 pups at a time, up to four times a year, and live 6-10 years in the wild.
A History of Mistreatment
Because mongooses can tolerate small amounts of snake venom, they have been captured for years in Pakistan and Okinawa for use in roadside attractions pitting them against venomous snakes. Due to activist pressure, this practice is on the decline.
Owing to their excellent hunting skills, mongooses have been imported to Hawaii and the Caribbean to help farmers deal with the rat population. Just as introduced species elsewhere, the idea has failed completely. The mongooses prefer to hunt birds and turtles instead, and they are captured and killed for simply living their lives.
Photo: Wildlife Trust of India
The (Sad) Art of the Mongoose
Mongooses have long been killed for paintbrushes, as the quality of their fur is neither too firm nor too soft, and can be tapered to a fine point. Indigenous hunters typically trap mongooses using snares or nets and then beat them to death with clubs.
It takes 50 slaughtered mongooses to produce a kilo of fur. It’s estimated that 100,000 of the endangered mongooses are killed each year in India to fuel this trade, despite laws on the books since 1972 that set punishment at up to seven years in prison.
Just like all wild animals captured and killed for their body parts, mongooses don’t need to lose their lives for our wants. Many artists have opted for synthetic alternatives, which mimic the shape and texture of actual fur. Unfortunately, the international demand is still there for mongoose paintbrushes.
What Can We Do to Help Mongooses?
If you’re an artist, make sure you’re not using mongoose fur. Pressure your art supply source to ensure they don’t sell brushes with them, too. But a permanent ban on all wildlife trade is the only long-term solution to keeping wild animals wild and eliminating animal suffering. You can take action to help mongooses and other wild animals by signing the World Animal Protection petition to ban the global trade of wild animals.