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Hope... with feathers

Conservationists release 64 vultures equipped with radio transmitters

Israel Nature and Parks Authority hopes Jewish new year will be better than last, when 12 of the endangered birds were poisoned

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

A griffon vulture is released into the wild in the Negev highlands in southern Israel, after being marked and fitted with a radio transmitter. (Yuval Dax, INPA)
A griffon vulture is released into the wild in the Negev highlands in southern Israel, after being marked and fitted with a radio transmitter. (Yuval Dax, INPA)

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority on Tuesday released 64 endangered griffon vultures into the wild, hoping that the new Jewish year will be a brighter one than the last.

The birds had been caught by the INPA to have their health checked, and to be marked and fitted with radio transmitters so that their movements can be followed.

They were set free in southern Israel’s Negev highlands.

There are about 200 griffon vultures overall in Israel. They face dangers of electrification by power lines, habitat disappearance and water shortages.

In October, 12 of the birds were found dead in southern Israel, in what the authority suspected were malicious poisonings.

In May 2019, eight dead griffon vultures were found in the Golan Heights after being poisoned, and two were treated for poisoning.

One of nine dead vultures shown next to the carcass of a goat in the Judean Desert in what the Israel Nature and Parks Authority suspects is a malicious poisoning event, October 24, 2021. (Eyal Ben Giat, INPA)

The INPA invests massive efforts to breed the vulture and to protect the wild population, even fielding teams — mainly of volunteers — to protect vulture eggs in nests.

In August 2020, it was reported that griffon vulture numbers were at an eight-year high, although the population was still endangered.

The organization has long campaigned for changes to the law that would make it easier to prosecute wildlife poisoning and impose far more severe punishments.

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