On the road to oblit­er­a­tion?

Is illegal trade push­ing the mon­goose to­wards ex­tinc­tion?

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - SHALEEN AT­TRE|

Illegal trade in mon­gooses could drive

them to ex­tinc­tion

IREMEMBER go­ing to a sta­tion­ary store as a 10-year-old and pur­chas­ing a paint­ing brush with­out giv­ing a thought as to how it was made. It wasn’t un­til much later that I learnt they are mostly made us­ing mon­goose hair. Most of us have been, and con­tinue to be, un­sus­pect­ing ac­com­plices in this cruel trade.

All mon­goose species found in In­dia are pro­tected un­der Sched­ule II (Part II) of the In­dian Wildlife (Pro­tec­tion) Act, 1972, which pro­hibits all trade of an­i­mals listed in it. Vi­o­la­tion may lead to im­pris­on­ment up to seven years and/or a hefty fine.The species are also cov­ered un­der the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (cites), an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment be­tween gov­ern­ments, with a com­plete ban on its com­mer­cial trade.

But trade of prod­ucts made from mon­goose hair is quite ram­pant in In­dia. While there are no re­cent fig­ures, an es­ti­mate by the Wildlife Trust of In­dia in 2002 said that around 50,000 mon­gooses are killed by poach­ers ev­ery year. In March this year, for­est depart­ment of­fi­cials in Kochi im­pounded around 14,000 brushes whose bris­tles were sus­pected to be made of mon­goose hair.

De­spite their pro­tected sta­tus, gov­ern­ment and non-gov­ern­ment sources have com­piled very lit­tle em­pir­i­cal data on the vol­ume of trade of mon­goose or their pop­u­la­tion in the wild. Pos­si­ble un­known over-har­vest­ing of this species for com­mer­cial gain is now a wor­ry­ing fac­tor. Lack of in­for­ma­tion makes it dif­fi­cult to as­sess the im­pact of the trade.

Help­ful to farm­ers

The mon­goose is an ac­tive hunter and feeds on small an­i­mals that live on the ground. It lives in crevices in rocks or bur­rows dug by other an­i­mals. It is ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial to farm­ers be­cause it helps in weed­ing out the pest pop­u­la­tion in fields and saves crops.

While the In­dian grey mon­goose ( Her­pestes ed­ward­sii) is quite com­mon in cities,there are five other mon­goose species found in the coun­try—ruddy mon­goose ( Her­pestes smithii), small In­dian mon­goose ( Her­pestes au­rop­unc­ta­tus), crab-eat­ing mon­goose ( Her­pestes urva), stripe-necked mon­goose ( Her­pestes vit­ti­col­lis) and brown mon­goose ( Her­pestes fus­cus).

Trade routes

Brushes made of mon­goose hair are in great de­mand in sev­eral coun­tries and are of­ten smug­gled to the US, the Mid­dle East and Euro­pean coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to re­ports by traf­fic, a wildlife trade mon­i­tor­ing net­work and a strate­gic part­ner of the World Wide Fund for Na­ture (wwf ) and the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture, which op­er­ates as a pro­gramme di­vi­sion of wwf-In­dia.

Re­port­edly, brushes made of mon­goose hair are of­ten sold as sable or badger brushes to avoid le­gal has­sles on hav­ing im­ported a banned prod­uct. Shekhar Niraj, head of traf­fic in In­dia, elab­o­rated on the trade routes, “The hair is col­lected from Ut­tarak­hand, Ut­tar Pradesh, Mad­hya Pradesh, Kar­nataka, Tamil Nadu, Ker­ala, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Ma­ha­rash­tra.The ex­port route in­cludes Delhi, Mum­bai, Ahmed­abad and Kolkata. Lately, Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bangladesh routes have also been found lu­cra­tive by smug­glers.”

traf­fic’s In­dia chap­ter had launched an online cam­paign on so­cial net­work­ing sites in Fe­bru­ary 2015 on the species dur­ing which facts were re­leased to raise aware­ness about the mon­goose. The cam­paign said, “Mon­gooses are trapped and in­vari­ably beaten to death so that their hair could be ex­tracted for com­merce. It is es­ti­mated that for a kg of mon­goose hair at least 50 an­i­mals have to be killed. Each mon­goose yields about 40 gm of hair but when the hair is sorted, only 20 gm of hair is found us­able for mak­ing paint brushes.”

Mon­gooses are ex­ploited for other pur­poses too. The Sta­tus of Mon­gooses in Cen­tral In­dia by S K Shekhar in 2003

in­di­cated that the mon­goose is in de­mand as a pet. The pa­per was pub­lished in the jour­nal Small Car­ni­vore Con­ser­va­tion. Gyp­sies from north­ern In­dia use hook snares to cap­ture the mon­goose for its skin, which is then sold in lo­cal mar­kets in Nepal, said the pa­per. Records also cite the mon­goose be­ing used by snake charm­ers dur­ing street per­for­mances to fight a ‘deadly’, al­beit mostly de-fanged, snakes.

Run­ning out of time

Gen­er­at­ing aware­ness among con­sumers is one of the big­gest chal­lenges, and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of mon­goose hair brushes is the key to it. Dur­ing its cam­paign this year, traf­fic (In­dia) re­leased an in­fo­graphic to help con­sumers iden­tify brush made of mon­goose hair to pre­vent their trade.It says that mon­goose hair is stiff, has a shaded gra­da­tion of grey, brown and dark brown. The tip of the hair is dark brown with cream or gray­ish cen­tre and be­comes dark again near the roots.

Time seems to be run­ning out for these ground-dwellers as they are hunted across the coun­try for a range of ac­tiv­i­ties. The mon­goose may soon dis­ap­pear if steps are not taken to save the last of these help­ful crit­ters. Shaleen At­tre works with TRAF­FIC (In­dia).

The views ex­pressed here are per­sonal

Though trade of prod­ucts made from mon­goose hair is banned in In­dia, around 50,000 mon­gooses are killed by poach­ers ev­ery year

Ex­perts say peo­ple need to be made aware of the look and tex­ture of brushes made of mon­goose hair (above) to en­sure they do not buy them

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