A wild griffon vulture was detained and tied to a post by residents of a Lebanese border town, after a transmitter from Tel Aviv University was found on the great bird’s back. Residents of the town of Bint Jbeil reportedly found the bird and became suspicious of espionage when they saw it was “wired.”
“Reports passed to us show the vulture tied with a rope by local people who write that they suspect Israeli espionage apparently because of the transmitter attached to him,” reads a statement by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority.
The nature organization says the vulture’s transmitter is for researching its travels and behavior.
Since the griffon vulture is a species in decline in the Middle East, the parks authority initiated a program to save these vultures from extinction via breeding centers. The authority imports vultures from Spain where the feathered population is abundant, breeds and raises the chicks in Israel, and releases them to the wild.
But when these grand birds land in enemy territory – bound to happen considering Israel’s location – curious claims about the birds often arise. In 2011, Saudi Arabian officials “detained” a vulture — carrying a GPS transmitter bearing the name of Tel Aviv University – and accused it of being a spy for Israel.
Many other wildlife have been implicated as Mossad agents of Israeli espionage. Last summer, Hamas accused Israel of sending a spy dolphin to Gaza.
Other zoological conspiracy charges include the 2007 Iranian arrests of squirrels supposedly carrying spy gear along the border; and the 2010 shark attacks in Egypt, for which Egyptian authorities blamed the Mossad for plotting to harm local tourism; among others.
While the outcomes of the other cases were never publicized, the vulture in Lebanon seems to have made it out alive.
“It would not be the first time residents of south Lebanon have found birds – including birds of prey – that serve Israel for research purposes,” according to a report on the Lebanese website bintjbeil.org. “After examining the bird to make sure it was not carrying listening or spy equipment it was returned to nature.”