Officials in the Darfur region of Sudan were proud to tell local media that they had seized an Israeli “spy” - in the form of an eagle that the Sudanese alleged was taking photos of the area and transmitting them to Israel. But that eagle was no spy, said Israeli officials – it was a rare bird that the Parks and Nature Authority is keeping track of, as part of a study to ensure the safety of eagles.
At a press conference earlier in the week, the mayor of the town of Krinkh, Hussein al-A'ali, displayed the eagle, along with a device upon which was written Hebrew text. Al-A'ali, along with Sudanese military officials, said that the device had been attached to the eagle, obviously for the purpose of spying on Sudan. The mayor demanded that the military take action to prevent future incidents of “Israeli spying.”
Commenting on the story, a spokesperson for Israel's Parks and Nature Authority confirmed that the device was indeed Israeli – but that it was a simple GPS device, which provides location information on the bird. “We have attached these devices to about 100 eagles,” the spokesperson said. “The GPS transmits the bird's location. The device was made in Germany, and no modifications are made in Israel.” The birds, all of them from several rare species of eagles, are part of a worldwide study that tracks the flight pattern of the birds, in order to develop environments that will help the species to recover, among other goals.
It should be noted that the Sudanese opposition movement itself derided the government's claim that it had found an Israeli “eagle spy.” On its web site, the “Movement for Justice and Equality in Sudan” said that the government had found “spy birds, but had missed many spy planes, which are much bigger.”
According to the Israeli official, there are at least four other “Israeli” eagles currently flying over Sudan. The eagles, which “commute” between Europe and Africa via Israel, can fly as far as 600 kilometers a day – and do not respect international borders.