Turkey Suspects Bird of Spying for Israel
Israeli officials says suspicion is ridiculous
Turkish officials launched an investigation to examine a dead bird that they believe may have used for espionage purposes by Israel, according to Ynet.
The investigation was launched several days ago in Turkey’s capital of Ankara after a farmer found a dead Merops Apiaster, commonly known as the European Bee-Eater, in his field. On one of its legs, the bird had a ring with the word “Israel” written on it.
The bird's remains were initially handed over to the Turkish Agriculture Ministry, which then transferred them to Ankara's security services.
Ornithologists regularly attach leg bands to migrating birds as they are meant to help scientists track bird migration routes. Such research is common practice in Israel, which is located in the middle of the main Europe-Africa migration paths.
Turkish authorities were also suspicious of the bird’s nostrils, Ynet reported.
According to Turkish media, the bird’s beak featured "unusually large nostrils." Combined with the identification ring, officials grew wary of the possibility that the bird was “implanted with a surveillance device” and was in Turkey as part of an espionage mission.
Israel Today reported that Turkish officials believed that the enlarged nostrils were potential evidence of Mossad tampering.
“The Turkish authorities can rest easy – it's not a spy,” Yoav Pearlman, of the Israeli Birdwatching Center told Ynet.
Pearlman said that northern Israel is home to a large population of the Merops Apiaster and that many more European Bee-Eaters use Israel as a stop in their migration route, which includes Turkey, southern Europe and Russia.
The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel confirmed that the bird was routinely banded approximately four years ago.
In January 2011, Saudi Arabian officials detained a griffon vulture wearing an Israeli band. The bird had been carrying a GPS transmitter labeled “Tel Aviv University” and was condemned for being a part of a "Zionist espionage plot.”