Victoria police have arrested three individuals after “Woolly” the mammoth at the Royal BC Museum was defaced with bright pink paint by protesters who said they wanted to draw attention to climate change.
The defacement of the museum’s centrepiece took place just before 11:15 a.m. PT on March 1, according to a statement by the Victoria Police Department. Police said other visitors, including children and families, were present at the time of the incident, which remains under investigation.
Activist group On2Ottawa took credit for the incident in a video posted on Twitter on March 1.
“Laura throws paint at the Royal BC Museum Woolly Mammoth to announce On2Ottawa, a new campaign to mobilize Canadians to go to Ottawa to press government to form a Citizens’ Assembly to kick-start action on the ClimateCrisis,” said the Twitter post.
The accompanying video shows a woman sitting in front of the three-metre-tall woolly mammoth replica statue, the fiberglass tusks covered with bright pink paint, her right hand covered in paint, and a teal-coloured can sitting beside her with paint splotches on the can and on her shoe.
“If the government does not enact the 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,” says the woman in the video, identified as “Laura.”
On2Ottawa says the stunt used washable paint and was intended to protest “criminal” inaction by the federal government on the “climate emergency.”
The exhibit was closed for around 90 minutes while staff restored the artwork.
“During today’s On2Ottawa launch action 3 people were arrested by Victoria police, Laura and the two people who were supporting her. They have since been released,” said a Twitter post by On2Ottawa.
In a separate incident last November, two women claiming to be climate activists allegedly vandalized an Emily Carr painting titled “Stumps and Sky” at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Nov. 12. They later issued a press release on Twitter saying it was to demand an end to the Coastal GasLink Pipeline in Northern B.C.
Two females from a group called Stop Fracking Around were videotaped throwing maple syrup on the glass-encased 1934 painting and then apparently gluing their hands to the gallery wall.
The International Community of Museums (ICOM) issued a joint statement on Nov. 9, 2022, signed by almost 100 museum directors, saying, “In recent weeks, there have been several attacks on works of art in international museum collections. The activists responsible for them severely underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects, which must be preserved as part of our world cultural heritage.”
The signatories include directors from the Met and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the British Museum and The National Gallery in London, and the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.