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Riding a patrol buffalo – a unique feature of the Brazilian police

Military police riding buffalo on the island Marajo (Brazil). Photo: Fernando Sette / CATERS NEWS

Legend has it that, after a shipwreck on the way to Guiana (France), water buffalo originating from Asia drifted into the island of Marajó (Brazil). Thanks to the tropical climate, Marajó has become the ideal environment for water buffalo to breed.

Currently, the number of water buffalo on the island of Marajó is about 450,000 – more than the population living there.

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

Major Francisco Cóbrega (41 years old) – an officer in the 8th Battalion of the Pará state police – said: “The importance of the buffalo in Marajó gave us an idea why not to patrol the buffalo.” Incubating this unique idea, one of the unprecedented experiments in Brazil took place.

For thousands of years, the water buffalo has been domesticated, dubbed the “tractor of the East” thanks to its large role in agriculture. However, the soldiers of the 8th Battalion here hatched a plan to add a greater role to the animal that was a symbol of wet rice agriculture.

This is the only police unit in the world that uses buffalo to change horses for patrol. Every year on September 7, the battalion even sends its trained buffaloes onto a ship to Belém, the capital of Pará to participate in the country’s Independence Day parade.

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Military police riding buffalo on the island Marajo (Brazil). Photo: Fernando Sette / CATERS NEWS

The buffalo unit began operations in the 1990s. The original mission was to patrol the town of Soure, home to about 23,000 inhabitants. Over the past few years, the force’s missions have expanded, including catching suspects lurking in the Marajó wilderness or chasing wild buffalo that threaten their life. citizen.

José Ribamar Marques, an official at Marajó working for Embrapa (a Brazilian agricultural and livestock research company), said: “Water buffalo are outstanding swimmers, better than dogs and more agile. horse. The animal is also very docile, easy to contact with humans “.

Indeed, the buffalo in Marajó also has certain advantages. The large and sturdy hooves allow them to move easily through the swamps. They also seem to have tolerated the terrible heat of Marajó – a place above the Equator.

Besides the physical advantage that makes patrolling easier, another benefit of using water buffalo patrol is helping the police create a friendly image of the people.

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A water buffalo was washed after a day of patrol at Soure in June 2015. Photo: The New York Times

Claudio Vitelli (45 years old) – a policeman in charge of patrolling buffalo – shares: “On this island, people know each other. I had to arrest one of my uncle for a minor crime, and before that, a cousin. Sitting on a buffalo makes me more accessible, making my job a little easier ”.

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

The test of the 8th Battalion has attracted the attention of other units across the country. Soldiers in 8th Battalion said they are willing to communicate to other patrol units their experience in using Asian water buffalo to replace horses, especially in moist tropical environments.

“Brazil is a country in a tropical climate. That means we have to find solutions to the challenges that the climate poses. My friends teased me, saying that a good buffalo is only for meat, but that is an ignorant view. Look what when people start riding them instead of eating meat. Buffalo patrol could be the beginning of a huge change, ”said Emerson Cassiano (42 years old), a policeman in the buffalo patrol unit.

“Few people know how important the buffalo species on our island are. Therefore, the local police are trying to raise people’s awareness of this animal, ”said Antenor Penant (30 years old), manager of a tannery in Marajó. Fernando Camara, an American photographer to the tourist island of Marajó, was attracted by the strange image of the police here. “Image of police riding buffalo has become an activity attracting tourists,” he said. But the root of this idea is to improve security and maintain the cultural beauty of the local people ”.

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