Riding buffalo patrol – Unique features of the Brazilian police

The deep roots of the idea of riding a buffalo to patrol the Brazilian tropical island is to ensure security and maintain the cultural beauty of the local people.

Legend has it that, after a shipwreck en route to Guiana (France), water buffaloes native to Asia washed up on the island of Marajó (Brazil). Thanks to its tropical climate, Marajó has become an ideal environment for water buffalo to thrive.

Riding buffalo patrol - Unique features of the Brazilian police
Military police riding buffalo on Marajo island (Brazil). (Photo: Fernando Sette/CATERS NEWS)

Currently, the number of water buffaloes on the island of Marajó is about 450,000 – more than the entire population living here.

Many daily life activities on the island of Marajó revolve around water buffaloes, from fragrant pieces of smoked buffalo meat, nutritious buffalo milk to excellent warriors in buffalo racing festivals.

Major Francisco Nobrega (41 years old) – an officer with the 8th Battalion of the military police of Pará state – said: “The importance of buffaloes in Marajó made us suddenly have the idea why not ride buffalo on patrol.” Cooking on this unique idea, one of the never-before-seen experiments in Brazil took place.

For thousands of years, water buffalo has been domesticated, dubbed the “tractor of the East” for playing a large role in agriculture. However, the soldiers of the 8th Battalion here hatched a plan to give the animal a greater role, which is the symbol of wet rice farming.

This is the only police unit in the world that uses buffalo instead of horses to patrol. Every September 7th, the battalion even takes the trained buffalo on a ship to Belém, the capital of Pará, to participate in the country’s Independence Day parade.

Riding buffalo patrol - Unique features of the Brazilian police
Military police riding buffalo on Marajo island (Brazil). (Photo: Fernando Sette/CATERS NEWS).

The buffalo unit started operating in the 1990s. Its initial mission was just to patrol the town of Soure, home to about 23,000 people. Over the past few years, the force’s mission has expanded to include catching suspects hiding in the wild jungles of Marajó or driving away wild buffaloes that threaten their lives. people.

José Ribamar Marques, an official at Marajó working for Embrapa (a company that researches livestock and agriculture in Brazil), said: “Water buffalo are superior swimmers, better than dogs and more agile. horse. The animal is also very docile, easy to interact with people.”

Indeed, the buffaloes at Marajó also have certain advantages. Their large and sturdy hooves allow them to move easily through swamps. They also seem to have a good tolerance for the extreme heat in Marajó, which is located on the Equator.

Besides the advantage of appearance that makes patrolling easier, another benefit of using water buffalo on patrol is to help the police create a friendly image with the people.

Riding buffalo patrol - Unique features of the Brazilian police
A water buffalo is washed after a day of patrolling at Soure in June 2015. (Photo: The New York Times)

Claudio Vitelli (45 years old) – a policeman in charge of riding a patrol buffalo – shared: “On this island, people all know each other. I once had to arrest an uncle of mine for a petty crime, and before that was a cousin. Sitting on a buffalo makes me more approachable, makes my job a little easier.”

With traditional military uniforms and heavy policing measures, the image of the military police in Brazil does not cause sympathy from the people. In particular, in 2011, after the police shot and killed a man in São Sebastião da Boa Vista – a small town in Marajó, people erupted in anger, occupied the local prison, freed the prisoners and released them. burn the police station. In the town of Soure, where the 8th Battalion operates with about 10 buffaloes, the police believe that patrolling with this animal can ease tensions with residents.

The 8th Battalion’s trial attracted the interest of other units across the country. Soldiers in the 8th Battalion said they were willing to convey to other patrol units their experience of using Asian water buffalo as a substitute for horses, especially in the humid tropical forest environment.

“Brazil is a country with a tropical climate. That means we have to find solutions to the challenges that climate poses. Friends tease me, saying that a good buffalo is only for meat, but that is an ignorant view. Look what when people started riding them instead of eating meat. Buffalo patrol can be the beginning of a great change,” said Emerson Cassiano (42 years old), a police officer in the buffalo patrol unit.

“Few people know how important the buffalo on our island is. That’s why the regional police are trying to raise people’s awareness about this animal,” said Antenor Penant (30), manager of a tannery in Marajó. Fernando Camara, an American photographer who came to the tourist island of Marajó, was attracted by the strange image of the police here. “The image of police riding a buffalo has become a tourist attraction,” he said. But the root of this idea is to improve security and maintain the cultural beauty of the local people.”