A large Israeli griffon vulture sports a metal ring on its leg, tags on its wings and a GPS transmitter on its tail.
They are tracking devices that enable scientific researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Gamla Nature Reserve to monitor the biggish scavenging bird and how its faring — but don’t tell that to a bunch of Lebanese locals in the village of Bint Jbeil, because they’re convinced the gadgets are proof that — get this! — the raptor is a spy working for the Israeli military.
And that’s why they’re holding it hostage just a few miles from the border of Israel and Lebanon.
This from CNN:
“[Locals in Lebanon] caught the bird for sure,” says Ohad Hatzofe, bird ecologist at the reserve in the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied from Syria in 1967. “They were holding the bird in their hands.”
The vulture was released in the same place it was caught after it was “certain that it was not carrying any hostile [spying] equipment,” according to local Arabic news site bintjbeil.org. Since then, the Israeli parks authority has not been able to track where the vulture went and is worried about its health.
Hatzofe dismissed the idea of a vulture spy as “senseless” but added: “I can understand the suspicions with the history we have in this region.”
This is hardly the first time neighboring countries in the West and Middle East hurled bizarre accusations involving the manipulation of animals for their defensive and economic gain.
Back in 2010 Egypt claimed that Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, planted a number of shark attacks in the Red Sea to cripple the country’s tourism and influx of money.
A Palestinian militant group also fingered Israel for strapping spying devices on dolphins off its coast once.
Both allegations were (understandably) vehemently denied by Israel and/or Mossad.