12/11/2012 03:13 pm ET

Vulture 'Spying For Israel' Caught In Sudan As Rumors Swirl About Feathery Secret Agents

A vulture tagged with GPS equipment was labeled an Israeli spy last week after it was found in Kereinek, a town in the Darfur region of western Sudan, The Telegraph reports.

The bird was discovered with GPS and solar-powered equipment capable of broadcasting images via satellite, according to Israeli wire reports. It also had a tag on its leg with "Israel Nature Service" and "Hebrew University, Jerusalem" emblazoned on it.

Ohad Hazofe, an ecologist with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, confirmed to Israeli news station Ynet that the bird was carrying Israeli tags, but he said the vulture came to Israel from the Balkans, from which it migrates every year. He added that its tags had no photography equipment.

"The bird in question can fly a distance of 600km [about 370 miles] a day," Hazofe said. "This is a young vulture that was tagged, along with 100 others, in October. He has two wing bands and a German-made GPS chip."

The opposition in Sudan mocked the alleged "spy bird" on its website, according to Ynet. The Justice and Equality Movement wrote, "How is it possible that the regime was able to detect one vulture, but was unable to detect the jets that bombed the arms facility?"

Tensions between Israel and Sudan are currently high, following allegations by Sudan that Israel was behind an October bombing of a Khartoum munitions depot, the Telegraph notes.

This is not the first time Israel has been accused of using feathered "007" agents. In May, a dead European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) with "unusually large nostrils" and a ring reading "Israel" on its leg aroused suspicion when it was found in Turkey, according to Yahoo!

Then last January, Saudi Arabian officials said they "detained" a vulture for spying, the BBC reports. This vulture, too, was carrying a GPS transmitter, this time with the label of Tel Aviv University. That bird was eventually declared innocent by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Saud al-Saud, the national security council chief, and released, Yahoo! reports.

In addition, in 2010, Egypt's Governor of southern Sinai blamed Israel's foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, for a string of vicious Sinai shark attacks, according to the Israel National News. “We must not discount the possibility that Mossad threw the shark into the sea, in order to attack tourists who are having fun in Sharm al-Sheikh," Southern Sinai Governor Abed Al-Fadij said.

Israel dismissed that allegation, saying the governor "must have seen 'Jaws' one time too many, and confuses fact and fiction," according to the BBC.



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