A man in northern Israel was arrested Sunday on suspicion of poisoning eight griffon vultures in the Golan Heights two days earlier, police said.
Border Police detained the suspect, in his 30s, from the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye in the Galilee. He was slated to be brought before a judge on Monday, where police will request his remand be extended.
In an unsourced report, Channel 12 said the man sprayed a poisonous chemical on the carcass of a cow in order to keep away predators, such as wolves. A flock of vultures ate from the remains of the cow, leading to the rapid deaths of eight griffon, in addition to jackals and a fox.
Two other vultures also fell ill and were taken by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to local veterinary hospitals, where they were subsequently nursed back to health.
The poisoning wiped out over half of the species population, with just 13 griffon vultures now remaining in the Golan Heights.
Repeated poisonings have devastated the local population, which 13 years ago numbered around 130.
They are mostly attributed to local cattle farmers taking illegal action to try to wipe out predators that threaten their herds.
Authorities said the death of the birds during the nesting period was particularly devastating, and could lead to the loss of eggs and hatchlings left without parents.
In recent years, the Nature and Parks Authority has made efforts to conserve and rebuild the local vulture population, including bringing in birds from Spain.
The authority called on the government to instill tougher penalties against those caught poisoning animals.
The police said that “this is a serious incident of animal poisoning and from the moment the case was revealed, the Israel Police has been working with the assistance of the Nature and Parks Authority, with all the means at its disposal, to solve the case.”
Alongside the eight vultures who died of poisoning, another vulture who received emergency treatment on the ground and was sent to the wildlife hospital at the safari, has recovered and is in very good condition. The vulture is expected to return to nature in the coming days.
Another vulture, who was examined at the field and was clearly not affected by the poisoning, returned that same day to his habitat in Gamla. According to the surveillance data, he is active and in good condition.