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One of Brazil’s Main Animal Traffickers Arrested in Federal Police Operation

One of Brazil’s Main Animal Traffickers Arrested in Federal Police Operation

By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo
January 15, 2021

On December 4, 2020, the Brazilian Federal Police (PF, in Portuguese) arrested one of Brazil’s main wildlife traffickers, rescuing some 200 animals bound for the black market. These results were achieved under the second phase of Operation Urutau, which was carried out in five Brazilian states, with investigations launched in 2019.

The trafficker, Roberto Augusto Martinez Filho, aka Zé do Bode, openly sold animals on social network sites and used fake documents to make it seem like his business was legal. “He has a long criminal record of committing environmental crimes,” said PF Deputy Marcelo Ivo de Carvalho. According to the police, Zé do Bode, who was arrested in São Paulo, was the leader of a criminal group that operated in many regions of the country. He was one of 11 people arrested during Operation Urutau II.

Another man, whose name the police didn’t release, who has been carrying out similar illegal activities for 38 years, was also arrested. “He was handing over the operation to his son. Other members of his family resorted to drug trafficking whenever wildlife trafficking was not going well, due to the reproductive cycles of certain species,” said PF Deputy Sebastião Pujol, chief of the precinct’s Repression of Environmental Crimes.

Most of the 200 animals rescued in the operation were birds. They were found in captivity, where the traffickers would keep them until the sale. Some of the animals were endangered species, such as the blue macaw, capuchin monkey, and toco toucan.

The first phase of Operation Urutau was carried out on May 23, 2019. At the time, nine people were arrested and some 350 animals were rescued.

Ongoing combat

In late November 2020, another operation resulted in the arrest of four members of a criminal organization that captured and sold animals in at least four states, generating about $2 million per year.

Some of the illegally sold animals were swans, which migrate from Chile and Argentina to the southern region of Brazil. The criminal group would sell each bird to brokers, for about $400. The end consumer would pay about $1,000. “This is a very lucrative market, second only to drug and arms trafficking,” said Deputy Beatriz Ribas of the Santa Catarina Civil Police.

The criminals arrested in Operation Bioma will be charged with crimes such as criminal association, animal cruelty, wildlife hunting, and forgery.