Suspect arrested over poisoning of Golan Heights vultures

Man in his 30s from Galilee village said to have sprayed toxin on cow carcass to keep predators away, leading to deaths of half of local vulture population

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

A man in northern Israel was arrested Sunday on suspicion of poisoning eight griffon vultures in the Golan Heights two days earlier, police said.

Border Police detained the suspect, in his 30s, from the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye in the Galilee. He was slated to be brought before a judge on Monday, where police will request his remand be extended.

In an unsourced report, Channel 12 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 griffon, 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 subsequently nursed back to health.

The poisoning wiped out over half of the species population, with just 13 griffon vultures now remaining in the Golan Heights.

Repeated poisonings have devastated 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 instill tougher penalties against those caught poisoning animals.

AFP contributed to this report.

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