Earlier this week, Saudis in the rural town of Hyaal became suspicious when they saw a giant griffon vulture, with a wingspan of more than 8 feet, flying low over their city. They spotted a GPS transmitter fastened to one of its feet. When the bird landed, they pounced -- and discovered the vulture was wearing an ankle bracelet with the words "Tel Aviv University."
The bird's captors called Saudi police, fearing it could be part of a "Zionist plot," The Independent quoted a report from a Saudi newspaper, Al-Waeem, as saying. State-run Saudi media are awash with photos of the bird, pinned down and revealing the transmitter.
But scientists in Israel say the bird is no "007" -- merely a participant in a Tel Aviv University study on bird migration patterns, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported. The vulture was fitted with the GPS transmitter so researchers could see how far it flew.
"The device does nothing more than receive and store data about the bird's whereabouts, altitude and speed," the Daily Mirror quoted a spokesman for Israel's park service as saying. "Now this poor bird is paying a terrible price."
Before the vulture, the latest such conspiracy theory surrounded a slew of shark attacks off Egypt's Red Sea coast last month. One Egyptian official reportedly suggested that the killer shark may have been planted there by Israeli agents to hurt Egypt's tourist industry.
In 2008, Iran "arrested" two suspicious pigeons caught "spying" at the country's closely guarded nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, the Toronto Star reported. A year later, Iranian media reported that 14 spy squirrels working for the West were apprehended "at the very last moment."