R65 -- the Griffon vulture arrested last week on suspicion of spying for Israel because of the Hebrew lettering on its GPS tag -- will soon be released according to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Saud al-Saud:
"These systems are fitted to birds and animals, including marine animals. Most countries use these system, including Saudi Arabia," Saud told Saudi media on Sunday, according to Emirates 24/7. "We have taken delivery of this bird, but we will set it free again after we [have] verified its systems."
Saud insisted he wasn't defending Israel, but called for calm.
"Some of the Saudi journalists rushed in carrying the news of this bird for the sake of getting a scoop without checking the information," he said. "They should have asked the competent authorities about the bird before publishing such news."
This is certainly good news. No innocent bird -- even a vulture -- deserves to be held on trumped up charges. I also hope that R65's colleague, reportedly still circling around Saudi Arabia, will stay safe.
Though given the political realities of today's Middle East, Tel Aviv University might want to consider slightly more innocuous tags for future research subjects. Unlike Israeli gerbils, Israeli vultures do not recognize natural boundaries.
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images