Honk for These New Prison Guards in Brazil

Vigilant geese replace dogs at the Penitentiary Complex near Florianopolis
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2023 1:23 PM CST

Who needs guard dogs when you have guard geese? Perhaps not as intimidating as a dog with bared teeth, a gaggle of the vigilant, honking birds have replaced canines as guards at a prison in Brazil's southern state of Santa Catarina, Reuters reports. "We have electronic surveillance, in-person surveillance ... and finally the surveillance of the geese, which replaced the dogs," Marcos Roberto de Souza, director of the Penitentiary Complex near Florianopolis, tells the outlet. The so-called "geese agents," led by a male goose named Piu-Piu, patrol a green space between the prison's inner fence and main outer wall. If anything is amiss, they sound the alarm by honking.

It's not a new idea. A decade-old report from New China TV describes how "goose squads" were organized to monitor 12 rural police stations in China's Xinjiang region. "If someone climbs over the wall, the geese will start to honk and try to bite the stranger," a police officer told the outlet, which described the animals as "highly cautious ... especially at night." A gaggle of 500 geese also helped guard China's border with Vietnam as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, as National Geographic reported last year. The outlet explained geese are thought to be among the oldest domesticated animals, with a rich history of assisting in security. One gaggle was even "credited with trumpeting the alert and saving Rome from a secret Gaul invasion in 390BC."

"When sleeping, geese can also leave one side of the brain awake and the eye connected to it open to detect threats—a rare phenomenon known as unihemispheric slow wave sleep," per the outlet. Geese are also cheaper to keep than dogs. "They basically take care of themselves, feeding on grass and not requiring veterinary care," per Nat Geo. Not every prison is suited to geese guards, but the Penitentiary Complex near Florianopolis is "a very silent place and at night even more so," Souza tells Reuters. Geese are known to have excellent hearing, as well as excellent eyesight, according to zoologists. Dogs have the upper hand when it comes to scent, however. (More Brazil stories.)

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