Data from scavenging birds is helping the Israeli military locate corpses around the sites of the October 7 attack by Hamas militants, a wildlife expert involved in the project said.
Eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey equipped with tracking devices played a role in the search for human remains, said Ohad Hatzofe of the Israel Nature and Parks Administration.
“When the war started, I was approached by some reservists serving in this unit,” Hatzofe said. “They asked me if my birds could help with anything.
The idea came from EITAN, a unit in the Army’s Human Resources Branch that is responsible for locating missing soldiers.
Hatzofe runs a program that monitors endangered griffon vultures, which feed mainly on dead animals, as well as eagles and other birds of prey, which he says also eat carrion.
The program has tagged hundreds of birds with GPS trackers to study their migration patterns, feeding habits, and the environmental threats they face.
On October 23, one of them—a rare sea eagle that had returned to Israeli skies the day before after spending the summer in northern Russia—was found near Beeri, not far from the Gaza Strip.
“I sent my data” to the military, Hatzofe said.
“They went to check it out and they found four bodies,” he said, without being able to divulge more about the location or identity of the corpses.
Beeri, a kibbutz farming community, saw 85 residents dead when Hamas militants stormed across the highly militarized border to carry out the worst attack since Israel’s creation in 1948.
According to Israeli authorities, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the attack.
Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel retaliated with a relentless bombardment and ground invasion that killed more than 10,500 people, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.
In Beeri, another 30 are missing or believed to be among the roughly 240 hostages taken by Hamas during its attack.
Hatzofe said data from the second bird, Bonelli’s eagle, enabled the recovery of “other bodies in Israel.”
Israeli police said on Monday that they had identified the bodies of a total of 843 civilians and 351 soldiers.
More than a month after the Hamas attack, dozens more people marked as missing have not been found or identified.
Image Source: CNBC