By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A group of about twenty tourists were assaulted while hiking along a trail in the forest of Tijuca National Park yesterday afternoon (Sunday, January 8th). According to the PM (Polícia Militar or Military Police), they were approached by three armed men, who collected objects from the victims and managed to escape.
One of the victims was wounded with a knife, according to police, but is not in serious condition. After the case was reported by the victims, military police of the 6th Battalion (Tijuca) and the Environmental Police Command (CPAm) made searches in the vicinity, but as of 9PM last night they had not identified or arrested any suspects.
Unfortunately robberies on hiking trails in Rio are not an unheard of occurrence and because of its size, Tijuca Forest is difficult to police effectively. Authorities announced an increase of security measures in 2015, including that Rio’s military police had assumed the policing of the park and would be patrolling the popular paths through the park.
However American-Brazilian Evan Farr, of the Jinga Experience adventure tourism company explained, “Honestly, I don’t believe there was a big change in the number of police officers patrolling the park from before 2015 to now. You see police and guards at the entrances and close to the main administration buildings, but rarely ever do you see them on the trails or trailheads.”
In regard to which hiking trails are safest, Farr adds, “The trails furthest from the city center, for example in the [Zona Oeste] West Zone of the city, are always less frequented by other hikers and thus decrease the possibility of theft. Considering the Tijuca National Park is located in the middle of the city and is so large in size, unfortunately it makes it an easier target.”
In 2013, a van carrying ten German tourists was robbed at gunpoint on a guided tour in Tijuca National Forest on a Thursday morning. The group’s van was intercepted on Estrada da Paineiras by two cars and six armed men. No one was hurt in the incident.
In 2012 approximately thirty people were robbed at gunpoint while on a mountain hike at Pedra da Gávea in Tijuca forest. In separate small groups, the hikers were on an early-morning excursion to watch the sun rise on a Sunday. At certain points along the trail, they were robbed at gunpoint by three hooded thieves.
The Floresta da Tijuca National Park has an area of 3,972 hectares filled with Atlantic rainforest. It is divided into three sectors, Floresta, Serra da Carioca and Pedra Bonita/Gávea, and with its three million annual visitors it is the most visited park in Brazil.
Farr offers some advice to those who want to hike in Rio, “I always recommend to go in bigger groups; with people who know the area; go earlier in the day; and try not to bring anything of value along with you.”
Adding, “At the end of the day, although naturally blessed, Rio de Janeiro is an urban metropolis that suffers from safety issues, like many others, and you can get unlucky sometimes. That said I wouldn’t let it deter you from hiking while in Rio.”