President Reuven Rivlin on Friday condemned the deadly poising of griffon vultures in the Golan Heights, following the return of a bird that fell ill from the poison to the wild.
“Eight vultures were poisoned and killed and the existence of the vulture population is in danger, which ultimately threatens the existence of many other species in the food chain of which we are also a part,” Rivlin wrote on his Facebook account.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has called last week’s poising a “mortal blow” to the local vulture population, with officials saying the eight birds made up half of total found in the Golan.
Two other vultures that became sick from the poison were taken to local veterinary hospitals to be nursed back to health. One of them was released on Thursday.
“A moment of hope when the vulture spread its wings and took flight to explore the skies,” Rivlin said.
“We must protect our wildlife. With responsibility, open eyes, national plans [and] an open heart,” added the president, a vegetarian.
בתחילת השבוע הורעלו למוות שמונה נשרים. הגעתי הבוקר לרמת הגולן ללוות את פקחי הטבע המסורים ששיחררו לחופשי את אחד הנשרים ששרד את ההרעלה.
התנדבתי במשך שנים בטיפול והצלה של חיות בר והנושא קרוב לליבי.
אדם שמרעיל בעל חיים יענש בחומרה רבה! אדאג לכך בחקיקה. pic.twitter.com/Rmq0SX7u5q
— Sharren Haskel השכל שרן (@SharrenHaskel) May 16, 2019
Likud MK Sharren Haskel, who travelled to the Golan for the vulture’s release, said she would push for legislation to increase penalties for poising animals.
“A person who poisons an animal will be very severely punished,” Haskel tweeted.
Police arrested a suspect on Sunday for the poisoning. The Walla news site reported that the suspect, who has been identified by media as Ghassan Manduri, was released Friday to house arrest.
Manduri, 36, is from the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye in the Galilee. His attorney said he has been a rancher for 20 years with no criminal past and denies the charges against him.
In an unsourced report earlier this week, 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.
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.
AFP contributed to this report.