Court remands suspect in poisoning of Golan Heights vultures
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Court remands suspect in poisoning of Golan Heights vultures

Lawyer says suspect, a rancher, denies deliberately contaminating cow carcass, wiping out about half the vulture population in the area

Ghassan Manduri, 36, from the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye in the Galilee, in court on suspicion of poisoning eight rare griffon vultures, May 13, 2019. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Ghassan Manduri, 36, from the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye in the Galilee, in court on suspicion of poisoning eight rare griffon vultures, May 13, 2019. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The Tiberias Magistrate’s Court on Monday extended by two days the remand of a man from northern Israel who was arrested on suspicion of poisoning eight griffon vultures in the Golan Heights, the Israel Police said.

The suspect was identified by the Ynet news site as Ghassan Manduri, 36, from the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye in the Galilee. Manduri’s attorney said he has been a rancher for 20 years with no criminal past and denies the charges against him.

Liad Ling, in charge of northern district investigations for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, said the vultures’ deaths were a loss for the whole country.

“This is a very grave incident for wildlife, and I think also for Israeli society,” Ling said after the remand hearing. “You can see that the incident is painful to Israel’s citizens.”

The carcasses of eight vultures found poisoned in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2019. (Nature and Parks Authority)

Border police detained the suspect on Sunday.

In an unsourced report, Channel 12 news said the man sprayed a poisonous chemical on the carcass of a cow in order to keep away predators, such as wolves. A flock of vultures ate from the remains of the cow, leading to the rapid deaths of eight, in addition to jackals and a fox.

Two other vultures also fell ill and were taken by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to local veterinary hospitals, where they were nursed back to health.

The poisoning wiped out about half the population of vultures on the Golan Heights, which was recently numbered at some 20.

Similar poisonings have decimated the local population, which 13 years ago numbered around 130.

They are mostly attributed to local cattle farmers taking illegal action to try to wipe out predators that threaten their herds.

Authorities said the death of the birds during the nesting period was particularly devastating, and could lead to the loss of eggs and hatchlings left without parents.

In recent years, the Nature and Parks Authority has made efforts to conserve and rebuild the local vulture population, including bringing in birds from Spain.

The authority called on the government to put in place tougher penalties against those caught poisoning animals.

AFP contributed to this report.

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