Israel police arrest suspect in poisoning of rare vultures

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli police said Monday they have arrested a man suspected of poisoning nearly half the already-threatened vulture population in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

A resident of the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangariya in northern Israel was detained on Sunday and remanded in custody by a court in Tiberias, police said in a statement.

Police did not mention any apparent motive, but posted a picture of a cow carcass the suspect had allegedly dosed with poison.

Local media said such poisonings in the past had been caused by farmers putting out poisoned bait to stop predators attacking their herds.

Eight out of around 20 griffon vultures left in the Golan were found dead Friday, Israel's Nature and Parks Authority head told AFP, in what he described as "a mortal blow to the birds of prey population".

A fox and two jackals were also found dead and two sick vultures were taken to a wildlife clinic for treatment, the organisation's director Shaul Goldstein said.

The vulture population on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights has declined significantly over the past two decades, with their number dropping from 130 in 1998 to around 20 before the latest deaths.

In 2016, UN peacekeepers helped return a vulture which had been captured across the border in Lebanon on suspicion of being used for spying for the Jewish state.

Israel seized around 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq miles) of the Golan from Syria in a 1967 and later annexed it, in moves never recognised by the international community.

About 18,000 Syrians belonging to the Druze community -- most of whom refuse Israeli citizenship -- remain in the occupied Golan, alongside some 20,000 Israeli settlers in 33 communities.