Why Do Birds Keep Getting Arrested as Israeli Spies?

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Oct. 16 2013 1:56 PM

Israeli “Spy Bird” Arrested … Again

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What's he up to?

Photo by Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV station is reporting that an eagle has been detained north of Beirut and is suspected of being an Israeli spy:

The eagle was carrying an implanted receiver and a brass ring was found around its foot with markings in English that connected the suspect to Tel Aviv University, according to the report.
Hezbollah TV broadcast an image of the "alleged spy" saying that a receiver had been located on its body.
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Incredibly, this kind of thing has become such a common occurrence that there is now a detailed Wikipedia page dedicated to “Israel-related animal conspiracy theories.” There was, of course, the great Mossad shark attack wave in the Red Sea in 2010, but birds have been the most frequent targets.

Egyptian fishermen carried out a citizens’ arrest on a stork in September. The bird was eventually released but was killed and eaten shortly after. Turkish authorities released a kestrel in July after x-rays proved it was not embedded with surveillance equipment. An alleged Israeli bee-eater caused alarm in a southeastern Turkish village in May 2012. Vultures have been detained on suspicion of spying for Israel in Sudan in 2012 and Saudi Arabia in 2011.

In all these cases, the birds were part of scientific studies by Israeli universities and wearing tags or electronic monitors with Hebrew lettering or references to institutions like Tel Aviv University. For the sake of their test subjects, Israeli scientists might want to design some less conspicuous tags.  

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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