Israel's nature authority said Tuesday that a vulture from one of its reserves had been captured on suspicion of espionage in neighboring Lebanon after flying across the border.
Members of the Israeli public phoned the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to alert it to Facebook reports and pictures of a vulture with an Israeli identification ring and location transmitter captured by residents of the south Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, spokeswoman Tali Tenenbaum told AFP.
"Reports passed to us show the vulture tied with a rope by local people who write that they suspect Israeli espionage apparently because of the transmitter attached to him," a statement by the authority said.
"In the 21st century we expect people to understand that wild animals are not harmful," it added. "We hope that the Lebanese will release him."
Tenenbaum said that in their regular monitoring of the bird's movements the authority's experts had been aware for some days that it had flown about four kilometres (2.5 miles) into Lebanon.
"But we did not know he'd been captured," she said.
The south Lebanese local website Bint Jbeil said that the bird had been freed after it was deemed not to pose any threat.
Conspiracy theories are endemic in the Arab and Muslim world, particularly about Israel.
Last summer, Palestinian media reported claims by the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers that they had apprehended a Mossad spy – in the form of a dolphin nabbed off their Mediterranean coastline, which they claim was equipped with video cameras for an Israeli spying mission.
In 2011 Saudi media reported that a vulture carrying a GPS transmitter and an identification ring from Tel Aviv University had been detained by security forces who suspected it was being used for espionage.
In 2010 Israel's foreign ministry dismissed Egyptian reports linking a spate of Red Sea shark attacks to Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.
AFP contributed to this report.