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Climate activist smears paint on museum's iconic woolly mammoth

A video online shows a woman sitting in front of the woolly mammoth, the tusks of which appear to have pink paint on them.
A climate activist makes a statement after defacing the Royal B.C. Museum’s woolly mammoth. VIA TWITTER

Three people were arrested Wednesday after the Royal B.C. Museum’s woolly mammoth was defaced with what appears to be pink paint in a bid to draw attention to the climate crisis.

A video online shows a woman sitting in front of the woolly mammoth, the tusks of which appear to have pink paint on them. A can of paint sits next to the woman, whose hand is covered in paint.

A group called On2Ottawa is taking credit for the stunt, saying the goal is to mobilize Canadians to travel to Ottawa to pressure the federal government to address climate change.

“If the government does not enact a citizens’ assembly to tackle the climate and ecological crisis in the next one to two years, then we will be travelling to Ottawa to demand one,” the woman, identified as Laura, says in the video.

Victoria police said officers were called to the museum around 11:15 a.m. and three people were arrested and taken to VicPD cells.

The water-soluble paint was cleaned off by 1:30 p.m. and the exhibit was reopened to the public, a museum spokesperson said. There was no permanent damage to the exhibit.

The protest is the latest in a trend worldwide of climate protesters attacking and defacing famous artwork to draw attention to the threat posed by climate change. Protesters in France, England, Italy, Australia and Germany have targeted artwork with food and paint and by gluing parts of themselves to frames and walls surrounding the pieces.

In November, two people calling for an end to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project threw maple syrup at a 1934 Emily Carr painting at the Vancouver Art Gallery before gluing themselves to the wall next to the painting.

Months earlier, a man disguised as an elderly woman threw cake at the protective glass covering the Mona Lisa in the Louvre museum in Paris, shouting at onlookers to think of the planet.

The museum’s iconic woolly mammoth was built in the late 1970s out of styrofoam blocks around a framework of wood and metal. The tusks are fibreglass replicas of a pair borrowed from what is now the Vancouver Museum, according to the museum’s website.

The hide is made of the hair of nine Arctic muskox skins provided by the Arctic community of Grise Fiord on south Ellesmere Island.

The mammoth is based on measurements taken of a skeleton discovered in an Illinois peat bog, now housed at the Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.

While woolly mammoth bones have been discovered in B.C., there were no complete skeletons when museum staff were tasked with building a woolly mammoth.

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