TEL AVIV, Israel Jan. 10, 2011 -- A vulture that was caught in Saudi Arabia last week and accused of spying for Israel's Mossad is to be released, a Saudi official said.
Prince Bandar bin Saud Al Saud scoffed at the claims, as did much of the world when news came last week that the vulture tagged with a GPS tracker by Tel Aviv University had been caught in the kingdom and accused by the media and locals of partaking in a "Zionist plot."
"These systems are fitted to birds and animals, including marine animals. Most countries use these system, including Saudi Arabia," Saud told Saudi media on Sunday, according to Emirates 24/7. "We have taken delivery of this bird, but we will set it free again after we [have] verified its systems."
Saud insisted he wasn't defending Israel, but called for calm.
"Some of the Saudi journalists rushed in carrying the news of this bird for the sake of getting a scoop without checking the information," he said. "They should have asked the competent authorities about the bird before publishing such news."
The bird, identified as a Griffon vulture tagged R65 was called a bald eagle by Saud.
After the bird had been captured, Israeli officials were quick to insist that it was part of a program studying migratory patterns.
"The device does nothing more than receive and store basic data about the bird's whereabouts, and about his altitude and speed," an official at Israel's Park and Nature Authority told the Maariv newspaper.
Israel is the subject of feverish conspiracy theories across the Arab world. In December, an Egyptian governor floated the possibility of the Mossad of being behind a string of shark attacks at an Egyptian resort.
"What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark (in the sea) to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm," said South Sinai Governor Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha.
The Jerusalem Post reported today that the director of the Society for the Protection of Nature, Dan Alon, is "filled with joy to hear of the bird's release."