A parrot was taken into custody Monday, April 22, after nearly spoiling a raid while playing lookout for two crack-dealing suspects by repeatedly yelling, "Mamãe, polícia!" according to Brazilian police in the state of Piauí. The phrase means, "Mama, police!"
Police encountered the unnamed parrot at the home of the two alleged crack cocaine dealers, perched inside a small brick one-story home with a windowless facade, Brazil's R7 news channel reported. As police searched for the suspects, it seemed the lime-green bird knew exactly what to do.
"He must have been trained for this," one officer involved in the operation said of the parrot's attempt to interfere with law enforcement, the Guardian reported. "As soon as the police got close he started shouting."
The bird's efforts were not successful, however. Footage of the raid's aftermath aired by R7 shows police cataloguing small bags of crack while the parrot sits obediently on a countertop next to a racecar helmet and a glass bottle. Its apparent owners, a man and teenage girl, were arrested, local newspaper Meio Norte reported.
An officer then carried the papagaio do tráfico - or "trafficking parrot," as news outlets referred to the bird - out of the house on his hand before placing it in a cage and taking him into the Teresina Police Department.
The parrot did not say a word, remaining in total silence even as law enforcement sought to loosen it up.
This caused the couple's defense attorney, Salma Barros, to cast some doubt on police's version of events. She questioned in an interview with Meio Norte how a bird accused of loudly tipping off law enforcement for drug dealers could remain totally quiet in the police station.
Others were concerned that the bird was in police custody at all. An environmentalist named Jaqueline Lustosa told Meio Norte that she had gone to the police department in attempt to free the bird. As of Wednesday, GloboNews, one of Brazil's largest cable news outlets, reported that the parrot had been taken to a local zoo, where zookeepers would train it how to fly.
The pet's stubborn silence continued even there, a veterinarian said. "Lots of police officers have come by," veterinarian Alexandre Clark said Wednesday, according to the Guardian, "and he's said nothing."
This is not the first time a parrot has been accused of aiding drug-trafficking suspects.
In Colombia in 2010, a parrot named Lorenzo made international headlines after police recorded it warning his owners "Run! Run!" in Spanish at the sight of police officers approaching. It was found guarding a cache of guns and pot.
"You could say he was some sort of lookout," a Colombian police officer said, according to the Associated Press.
Colombian officials claimed then that Lorenzo was one of 1,700 birds authorities had recently seized, believing they had all been trained to alert their owners if police approached, the AP reported.
Exotic animals have long been used by drug cartels as symbols of power or as unwitting accomplices in drug trafficking.
For example, Reuters reported in 2009 that traffickers have tucked drugs into hidden compartments in crates containing venomous snakes marked "Don't open!" so that customs workers would be too afraid to look inside. In 2011, Al Jazeera reported that Mexican authorities were seizing so many exotic animals from "narco zoos" belonging to Mexican drug cartel leaders that they did not know what to do with all of them. In some cases, the news outlet reported, the animals served as both symbols of power and as a warning to rival gangs: Members of the Zetas gang were rumored to have fed their enemies to the backyard tigers.
In Brazil, police claimed such gang warfare was a reality. In 2008, authorities reported they had confiscated two alligators from drug traffickers who had allegedly fed the reptiles corpses of rival gang members, according to GloboNews.
This article was written by Meagan Flynn, a reporter for The Washington Post.