The Brazilian government recently launched Operation Eraha Tapiro (Ox Removal), its largest-ever attempt to remove thousands of cattle owned by illegal land grabbers in indigenous territory of the Amazon, according to reports.
The multi-agency operation is being led by a heavily armed group of police and environment rangers, equipped with three helicopters and a dozen vehicles, who have been met with fires on the route, destroyed bridges and intimidation from criminal gangs.
Their efforts are focused on the Ituna-Itatá Territory, a protected indigenous area of 142,000 hectares, which suffered some of the worst deforestation and invasions in the Amazon under the previous administration.
The new administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has promised to curb the environmental crime that thrived under his predecessor, Jair Bolsanaro, with the aim of halting agricultural expansion into protected areas and achieving zero deforestation by 2030.
His environmental minister, Marina Silva, has launched a series of operations to drive illegal miners and ranchers out of indigenous and other state-protected lands.
Operation Eraha Tapiro is both the largest of its kind and an important political statement on the frontline of environmental crime in Pará State, said operation commander Givanildo Lima.
“The deforestation of Ituna-Itatá was planned and executed by a gang that had great political power. Making this operation successful demonstrates our ability to fight crime in the Amazon, which is increasingly organised,” he explained.
Some 400 heads of cattle have been removed so far and authorities estimate it will take weeks to remove the remaining 5,000 from the territory.