In the cloak and dagger world of international espionage, it takes a cool head and nerves of steel to get the job, though being a human isn't necessarily a prerequisite -- at least that's according to authorities in Saudi Arabia who recently detained a wild vulture under the suspicion that the bird was a spy. Yes, a vulture. Officials became concerned when they discovered that the otherwise unremarkable bird was wearing a transmitter and a ID bracelet around its leg, tying it to a foreign entity.The vulture, discovered in a rural region of Saudi Arabia, was found to be fitted with a GPS device, marked with the words "Tel Aviv University." Suspecting that some covert operation was afoot, authorities promptly detained the bird. Despite the serious accusation, chances are the wild vulture couldn't ever have imagined getting mixed up in the high-stakes game of international politics simply by taking a flight throughout its native homeland.
While representatives from the Israeli university claim that there's been a misunderstanding -- that the bird was tagged as part of research into vulture migration patterns -- Saudi officials aren't totally convinced. In fact, according to The Telegraph, the there's a growing suspicion throughout the country the wired bird may be indicative something far more sinister than a study on migration:
Residents and local reporters told Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper that the matter seemed to be linked to a "Zionist plot" and swiftly alerted security services. The bird has since been placed under arrest.
The accusations went viral, according to the Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper, with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming that the "Zionists" had trained the birds for espionage.
Surprisingly, this isn't the first time that heightened tensions in the Middle East have led to fingers being pointed at wildlife. Regarding several incidents from just a few weeks back, there have been reports that an Egyptian official has suggested that the shark that killed and maimed tourists in the Red Sea coast last month may have been intentionally released by Israeli agents in order to sabotage the country's tourism industry.
Such accusations of animal-led espionage and sabotage, while in all probability without merit, may be part of a troubling trend wherein unsuspecting wildlife is thought to play any part at all in international diplomacy -- when, in fact, they are among the victims of conflicts wholly derived by humans. The truth is, as a wild vulture soars majestically through the sky, it cannot perceive our closely guarded borders or the ideological allegiances in country to country.
Chances are, to nature's creatures living wild and free, we humans possess profoundly more similarities than differences -- and that's a mindset, perhaps, that the world would be better served having a bit more of.