Residents near the south Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil reported Tuesday that they had captured a griffon vulture wearing an Israeli tracking device, the latest in a long line of incidents in which Jerusalem has been accused of using secret agents from the animal kingdom.
Upon realizing that the that the transmitter strapped to the bird was intended for scientific research rather than espionage, however, the residents released the vulture, the Ynet news site reported.
The griffon vulture had originally been brought from Spain to Israel as part of a project to help increase the reproduction of endangered species.
The bird of prey was released to the wild by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority last month. Before the release, the authority attached a tracking device to the vulture in order to monitor the bird in the future.
מהבוקר מפורסמות ברשת תמונות של הנשר הזה, שנתפס בלבנון בחשד שהוא מרגל לטובת ישראל מכיוון שהוא נושא משדר של רשות הטבע pic.twitter.com/NdfuatbjaV
— יערה שפירא (@yaara_shapira) January 26, 2016
The authority further stated, without elaborating, that the vulture was in need of veterinary treatment, and that researchers has not received a sign of life from the bird since its release from the hands of the Lebanese civilians, according to Ynet.
Spying allegations against Israel involving various creatures are not uncommon in the region.
In August Hamas claimed to have caught a dolphin wearing Israeli spying equipment.
Twice in recent years, Turkish media have highlighted allegations that birds tagged with Israeli university tracking devices were on espionage missions.
In 2012, an eagle with an Israeli tag in Sudan was captured and touted as a Mossad spy.
Two years earlier, an Egyptian official said Israel-controlled sharks could be involved in a number of attacks on tourists in the Red Sea.