Members of the Israeli public phoned the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to alert it to Facebook reports and pictures of a vulture with an Israeli identification ring and location transmitter captured by residents of the south Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, a spokeswoman, Tali Tenenbaum, said.
“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,” the authority said.
“In the 21st century, we expect people to understand that wild animals are not harmful,” it added. “We hope that the Lebanese will release him.”
Tenenbaum said the authority’s experts had been aware for some days that it had flown about 2.5 miles (four kilometres) into Lebanon. “But we did not know he’d been captured,” she said.
Reports later said the bird had been freed after it was deemed not to pose a threat.
Conspiracy theories are endemic in the Middle East. Last summer, Palestinian media reported claims by the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers that they had apprehended a dolphin off their Mediterranean coastline equipped with video cameras for an Israeli spying mission.
In 2011, Saudi media reported that a vulture carrying a GPS transmitter and an identification ring from Tel Aviv University had been detained by security forces who suspected it was being used for espionage.
In 2010, Israel’s foreign ministry dismissed Egyptian reports linking a spate of Red Sea shark attacks to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 26 Jan 2016.