6 Jan 2011

Spy vulture denied by Israel

7:52 pm on 6 January 2011

Wildlife officials in Israel have dismissed as "absurd" claims from Saudi Arabia that a captured vulture with a GPS tracking device, could be an Israeli spy.

The griffon vulture was carrying a GPS transmitter bearing the name of Tel Aviv University, prompting rumours it was part of a Zionist plot.

The BBC reports it was caught in the desert city of Hyaal a few days ago.

The Israelis say they were trying to monitor the bird's breeding habits.

"The device does nothing more than receive and store basic data about the bird's whereabouts, and about his altitude and speed," a bird specialist at the Park and Nature Authority told the Ma'ariv newspaper.

The data would be used to improve understanding of the endangered species' behaviour.

"Now, this poor bird is paying a terrible price. That's very sad," said the unnamed expert. "I hope they release the poor thing," he said.