When the state-run People’s Daily reported this week that geese were being used in the Xinjiang province’s war on crime, jokes about goose-stepping policeman were just too easy.

“Among all poultry, geese [are known] for being extremely vigilant and having excellent hearing,” county police chief Zhang Quansheng told the paper. “Geese are very brave. They spread their wings and will attack any strangers entering [someone’s] home,” he said, “like a radar that does not need power.”

But as daft as it sounds, Zhang could be on to something. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization notes that geese “make excellent guards against approaching strangers or predators since outsiders cannot calm them into silence.” Nor is China the first country to deploy tactical water fowl. The US military employed 900 geese to guard military installations in West Germany in 1986, and geese have even been credited with helping Rome fight the Gaul invasion in 390 BC.

What’s more, the agriculture ministry of New South Wales in Australia somehow determined that the Chinese breed of goose is most effective as a sentinel (watchdog? watchgoose?) and helpfully notes that geese can even be used for weed control in the garden. Now if they could only do something about those politicians feathering their own nests…