Illegal Paintbrush Trade Causes Brutal Mongoose Killing

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By TKnoxB/Creative Commons/2.0

Mongooses are known as fierce predators, able to take down deadly cobra or black mamba snakes with a single bite, but there is one creature that the furry critters do need to fear: man.

Indigenous hunters snare the mongooses in nets or traps and then brutally club them to death. The hunters keep the meat, but sell the hair to be used for fine art paintbrushes.

Killing mongoose and selling mongoose products has been illegal since 1991 under Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, but despite this, the mongoose-hair paintbrush trade continues. In 2015, law enforcement confiscated 14,000 of the mongoose-hair brushes in a town in southwest India. Artists prefer the mongoose-hair brushes because they are not too stiff, and not too soft, and come to a tapered point that helps to add fine details to a painting.

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By Matter of Fact/Creative Commons/3.0

Mongooses are small mammals found primarily in Africa, Southern Asia, and the Iberian Peninsula. They have brown or gray fur, and some species have striped coats or ringed tails.

Despite the barbaric treatment they receive from hunters, the creatures have long been a friend to humans. Mummified mongooses and pictures of the animals were found in Egyptian tombs, and they were introduced in Hawaii and the West Indies to control the rodents on sugarcane plantations.

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And perhaps the most famous example of the relationship between men and mongooses is Rudyard Kipling’s fabled Rikki-tikki-tavi, the mongoose who saved a family from the venomous cobras living in the courtyard.

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