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Israeli ‘spy vulture’ reportedly caught in Sudan

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(JTA) — Sudan officials said they captured a vulture that Israel fitted with spy equipment, according to Middle Eastern media reports.

According to the online edition of the Egyptian daily El Balad, the vulture was captured in the town of Kereinek in the Darfur region, in Sudan’s west, prompting Sudanese authorities to announce that Israel was using vultures to spy on their country. The report in El Balad does not say who made the claims.

The equipment fitted on the vulture was solar powered and allows broadcasting the information gathered, including images, via satellite uplink, the paper said. It also had a GPS installed.

The report further states that the Sudanese security services were able to determine that the equipment found on the vulture came from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and featured a university logo.

The Iranian television station Press TV quoted unspecified Sudanese media as reporting that the raptor had a leg band with labels that read, in Hebrew, “Israel Nature Service” as well as “Hebrew University, Jerusalem.” 

“This means the equipment installed on the vulture was mounted on it in its home country,” El Balad wrote.

An ecologist for Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, Ohad Hazofe, was quoted as telling the Israeli news site Ynet that vultures are routinely tagged and fitted with a GPS chip for research purposes.

"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," Hatzofe said. The device, he added, had no photography capabilities.

"This is equipment that can give out distance and altitude readings only," Hatzofe said. "That’s the only way we knew something had happened to the bird — all of a sudden it stopped flying and started traveling on the ground."

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