7 Jan 2011

'Spy vulture' claim dismissed as absurd

8:33 am on 7 January 2011

Wildlife officials in Israel have dismissed as absurd a claim from Saudi Arabia that a captured vulture that carried a GPS tracking device could be an Israeli spy.

The vulture, which can have a wing span of up to 2.65m, was caught after it landed in the desert city of Hyaal a few days ago.

Saudi newspapers and websites have speculated the bird was involved in espionage and could be part of an elaborate Zionist plot.

Israeli officials told Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper they were stunned by the allegations and concerned that the bird could meet a horrible punishment in the severe Saudi justice system, the BBC reports.

A bird specialist at Israel's Park and Nature Authority told the newspaper the GPS device does nothing more than receive and store basic data about the bird's whereabouts, altitude and speed, which would be used to improve understanding of the endangered species' behaviour.

Last month Egyptian officials implied the Israeli spy agency Mossad was to blame for shark attacks off its coast.