Israeli troops rescue rare eagles
Palestinians look on as Israeli soldiers raid a pet shop in Hebron The birds
were confiscated and taken to a zoological gardens A 30-strong platoon of
elite Israeli paratroopers has taken part in a mission to rescue a pair of
rare golden eagles in the West Bank town of Hebron.
The soldiers were called in by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority after
it received information that the birds were being held in a house in the
The eagles were eventually tracked down to a pet shop, confiscated and taken
to a zoo. Two Palestinians were detained.
Only six pairs of the eagles exist in the wild in Israel, the authority
The bird of prey has been threatened with extinction in recent years by
poisoning, illegal hunting, the destruction of its habitat and a dwindling
Many have also been trapped or stolen from nests and smuggled to the Gulf,
where there is said to be a considerable demand.
Last week, the INPA asked for support from the Israel Defence Force after
being told two golden eagles were being kept in a house in Hebron.
Aviam Atar with one of the eagles (Photo: Israel Nature and Parks Authority)
This was not the first time and, unfortunately, not the last time this will
happen Aviam Atar
The town, which is home to about 120,000 Palestinians and several hundred
Jewish settlers, has been a frequent flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian
On Thursday morning, soldiers from the Paratrooper Brigade's 202nd
Battalion, supported by helicopters, searched the suspected home with an
INPA ranger, Aviam Atar. The birds were not there, however.
Mr Atar, protected by the paratroopers, then searched the surrounding
neighbourhood and questioned local residents.
They were eventually led to a pet shop in the town centre, where the two
one-year-old eagles were found in cramped cages, although in a good
Mr Atar said the two Palestinian men detained for keeping the eagles gave
conflicting accounts about how they had come by the birds.
One said they had bought them in a market when they were chicks and
hand-reared them, while the other man said they had bought them only
'Not the first time'
The birds were then confiscated and taken to the Tisch Family Zoological
Gardens in Jerusalem.
Mr Atar said the birds would unfortunately never be released back into the
"They have become used to people and cannot hunt," he told the BBC.
"However, their chicks will not have to stay at the zoo."
The ranger said at least five golden eagles had been stolen or trapped in
the past three years.
"This was not the first time and, unfortunately, not the last time this will
happen," he added.
Last year, Mr Atar used another Israeli army unit to help him rescue two
golden eagles from a group of Bedouin in the desert. The birds were found
shackled in chains.