Genuine Mustelids is a collaboration of independent mustelid enthusiasts from across the globe, who seek to promote a more accurate representation of the family for both art and education. All team members are volunteers and work to provide content for this website when able. We at Genuine Mustelids are not an authority or animal rights organization, and will never attempt to force our views or persecute anyone to portray or treat mustelids as we see fit. Outside our personal goals, we exist publicly only as a guide for those who appreciate learning or considering what is being less commonly taught.
What are the issues?
There’s a common frustration among those who love mustelids which often prompts the question “Why are most mustelids in media demonized and look nothing like mustelids?” Or “My ferrets are sweet, why are they accused of being vicious?”
Even though most of us have never academically studied, owned, or even seen a mustelid before, the often elusive nature of these animals have given rise to many negative—and often human-centric—assumptions. Taking into account our advances in ethology, it is both unfortunate and concerning that some animals continue to be stigmatized based on long-disproved myths and rumors. And let’s face it—given the historically nonsensical violence of mankind, we should be the last to superciliously call an animal vicious.
Even with the combined capabilities of zoologists and wildlife biologists, there’s still a lot we don’t know about mustelids, and the science used to study them continues to evolve. Since most mustelids are elusive, some species require decades of research to reveal even the most basic of information. However, unlike myths or rumors, science is focused on improving our understanding of these animals in a less subjective manner.
Sensationalism in media & double standards of “morality”
Throughout much of modern history, many mustelid species have been subjected to a range of media sensationalism and scaremongering; imaginative minds taking advantage of society’s fear of the unknown. It doesn’t take much effort to make an elusive animal appear more dangerous or savage than necessary, if we photograph or film the animal while it’s being purposely agitated, use heightened sound effects, or even a taxidermy to stage a fake scene. In some cases, people will deliberately disclose the wrong mustelid species entirely; which starts and spreads rumors about another animal. These dishonest and misleading techniques are frequently used to provoke public interest, and are problematic for honest educators.
Unlike most of us, wild predators generally do not have the benefit of a pre-killed meal when hungry; naturally, this means they must be fierce hunters to survive. This is especially true for the smaller species that must eat more frequently, due to having both a high metabolic rate and short digestive system; a relentless dietary struggle which is often misconceived as killing for sport. Admittedly, this behaviour can be harmful to both poultry owners and some endangered species, but it is not unique to mustelids.
Unfortunately, labels such as “assassin”, “murderer”, “bloodthirsty” or “cold killer” have been repeatedly used to describe certain mustelid species; which often derive from attributing simplified human moral concepts such as “good and evil” to animals. No predator (regardless of the animal) is known for being gentle or compassionate towards their prey, so why are these labels necessary? Not only are they redundant, but they also detract from the animal’s complexity and lesser-known traits and struggles. Many free-ranging domestic cats will also instinctively kill animals—sometimes with no intention of consumption—yet you’ll rarely hear them described as “viscous killing machines”.
Mustelids are prone to mistaken identity
Frequently whenever media featuring a species of mustelid is shared online, you’ll come across numerous remarks claiming the animal is some type of cat, rodent, fox or small bear; just to name a few. Though often unintentional, mustelids are prone to being viewed and labeled every animal but what they actually are (including different mustelid species), giving rise to behavioural and characteristic misconceptions.
This may seem harmless, but mistaken identity can sometimes lead to false accusations of attacks or damage to property that was performed by a different animal. In order to identify mustelids, we must acknowledge and respect that every species has distinctive characteristics. Common descriptions such as “rounded ears, short limbs and bushy tails” are far too broad.
How we help
Having a website that educates people about real-life mustelids is one thing, but how does a list of fictional media help these animals in the real world? Such content is merely fiction and doesn’t represent reality, right? Fictional media shouldn’t reflect on mustelids in the real world, but it often does. People have a tendency to form opinions about elusive animals at an early age based on what they’ve learnt from cartoons, games, and other media, and these early beliefs tend to stick with people through adulthood, regardless of accuracy.
While there are great conservation organizations that both help educate people about mustelids and protect their habitats, few take advantage of media to help inspire more people care about the existence of these misunderstood animals. While we the average people are not zoologists and do not personally study the science behind mustelids, we have the most influence when it comes to improving their reputation; because after all, it was average people who gave rise to the reputation they have. How mustelids are viewed in society is important if we want more of the general public to value the information conservationists provide. There are many people you cannot inspire or teach through educational books or documentaries alone.
For some people their interest in mustelids stem from a born passion for wildlife, but for many others, it all started with a favorite childhood or young adulthood character. Memorable characters such as Taggerung the otter, Kine the least weasel, and Bill the badger are among a few that have inspired people to learn more about these amazing creatures. For this reason, we believe combining both educational and fictional media to be a good way in helping people become more interested in mustelids; perhaps even inspiring a few to become future conservationists.