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Monday, February 1, 2016
Vulture accused of spying for Israel released by Lebanese villagers who held it captive
A huge vulture captured by Lebanese villagers on suspicion of being an Israeli spy has been released after UN intervention.
Israeli officials confirmed that the bird, that had escaped from a game reserve in the occupied Golan Heights and flown over the border, had been returned.
The huge griffon vulture was captured by Lebanese villagers in Bint Jbeil on Tuesday after they became suspicious of the Israeli tracking device on its tail.
Initially from Catalonia, the bird is part of an attempt to increase the population of endangered vultures in the region.
The griffon vulture has been nearly extinct from the mountains of Israel and is the subject of a reintroduction project.
As part of that project, vultures are tagged with radios and labels to keep track of the population.
Wildlife officials in Israel were alerted to its capture when photos of the tied-up bird appeared on social media.
On Friday an Israeli statement said: "In a discreet operation with the Lebanese and with the great help of UN forces and the UN liaison unit, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority was able to return the vulture that was caught a few days ago by villagers of Bint Jbeil, Lebanon."
Surprisingly this isn't the first time a bird from Israel has sparked an international incident.
In 2011, Saudi Arabia captured a griffon vulture with a Tel Aviv university tag and accused it of being a spy for Mossad.