When a farmer in Gaziantep province in southeastern Turkey came across a dead bird in his field several days ago, he thought nothing of it — until he noticed a band around its leg, reading “Israel Tel Aviv”, and that its “nostrils were very different from other birds’, and very wide.”
The local police station was alerted, and a police intelligence force has taken the bird away for inspection, according to Habertürk.
Israeli ornithologist hastens to clarify bird is “not a spy”
The bird was indeed banded in Israel four years ago, according to the Israeli Society for Protection of Nature, reports YNet.
But it was tagged so that ornithologists could track its migration patterns, says Yoav Pearlman of the Israeli Birdwatching Center. A large bee-eater population makes its home in northern Israel, says Pearlman. Many others stop in the country on their migratory route, which includes Turkey, Southern Europe, and Russia.
“This bird set off an uproar in Gaziantep! Is it Israel’s spy?”
The graphic above was one of several that Turkish media ran about the incident last week.
“We saw that the bird’s left nostril was three times larger than its right,” said Nebi Koca, president of the local Beekeepers Association, to whom the bird was first brought by the farmers who found it. “Presumably, anything could have been placed in there.”
The bird was next taken to the regional Agriculture Directorate, which then turned it over to Turkey’s national intelligence police.
“It might be used for audio or video” surveillance, said Akif Aslanpay, head of the Animal Health Division at Gaziantep’s Agriculture Directorate. “Israel can do such things.”
Israel previously suspected of implanting birds with spying devices
YNet points out that birds have been suspected of being Israeli spies in other Middle Eastern countries before.
Last year, Saudi authorities announced that they had “detained” a vulture that had been banded by Tel Aviv University, and condemned it for being part of a “Zionist espionage plot.”
Their foreign relations implications aside, these episode reflect the lack of awareness about natural sciences in countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In many countries, even small children would be able to recognize a band around a bird’s leg as a scientific tool, not a spying device.
Hopefully, initiatives such as the new wildlife corridor in northeast Turkey will improve public education about the environment in the country.
Read more about wildlife in Turkey: