Today’s selection from our You Can’t Make This Stuff Up Department offers the surreal scenario of a prince trying to smooth over the embarrassment of a national press that seized on a story of a vulture equipped with spy equipment — apparently it was actually an eagle, but the vulture makes for better symbolism in the propaganda — all the while having to insist he’s not being a traitor to his country and religion by exonerating the enemy from this nefarious deed which just happened to be imaginary.
A bird suspected by some of being a spy for Israel’s Mossad is being released by Saudi Arabia after officials learned the creature was merely part of a university research project.
The bird, which was first identified as a vulture but is reportedly a bald eagle, was captured last week by a local hunter in a remote area of the Saudi desert. The bird was wearing a GPS transmitter and a leg bracelet with the words “Tel Aviv University,” according to reports that began with the Israeli daily Ma’ariv.
Within hours, reports that Israel was using birds of prey in a Zionist espionage plot went viral on many Arabic-language websites and forums, according to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Weeam newspaper.
Though the vulture was tagged in a way to indicate it was part of a scientific study of migration patterns, its arrival in Saudi Arabia came at an inopportune time. Last month, after a string of shark attacks on tourists in the Red Sea, a South Sinai governor suggested they might be a plot by Israeli secret agents.
“What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm,” South Sinai Gov. Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha said, according to Reuters.
But after the vulture had been captured in Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar bin Saud al Saud, the Saudi nature authority, told Arabic-language news dailies that the bird was not a spy and that there had been been a mixup concerning a tracking device that had been placed on the bird. He also said the bird was a bald eagle.
Prince Bandar scolded local media outlets for what he said was irresponsible reporting, Emirates 24-7 reported.
“Some of the Saudi journalists rushed in carrying the news of this bird for the sake of getting a scoop without checking the information. … I am not defending Israel, but we need to be clear. … They [newspapers] should have asked the competent authorities about the bird before publishing such news.”