A Griffon Vulture, much like the one in our Zoo Portraits collection, was caught on January 26th in the vicinity of the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, under suspicion of espionage, as The Guardian reported.
The great bird, which has a 1.9m (6ft 5in) wing span, has a metal engraved ring on its leg indicating it is from Tel Aviv University, tags on its wings, and a GPS transmitter attached to its tail, all of which raised mistrust when it flew over the border to Lebanon.
According to the BBC, the vulture is originally from Spain and was released about a month ago in the Gamla Nature Reserve in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, as part of a conservation project seeking to reintroduce raptors to the Middle East.
Bird ecologist at the reserve in the Golan Heights, Ohad Hatzofe, told CNN that “(Locals in Lebanon) caught the bird for sure (…) They were holding the bird in their hands.”
The BBC pointed out that “in a discreet operation with the Lebanese and with the great help of UN forces and the UN liaison unit, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority was able to return the vulture that was caught a few days ago by villagers of Bint Jbeil, Lebanon,” quoting an Israeli statement released on Friday 29th.
Ohad Hatzofe said that the idea of a vulture spy is “senseless” but acknowledged that suspicions were understandable, considering the history in the region.
It is not the first time an animal has been accused of espionage, there have also been a dolphin and a squirrel, among many other. There is an interesting Wikipedia entry about Israel-related animal conspiracy theories.