Griffon vulture
A Griffon vulture – or a Mossad agent?
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Over one hundred managers of leading zoos from around Europe met in Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo Friday, the first time the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria has held a conference in Israel.

Among other issues the meeting tackeld, delegates got the full story of the “Mossad agents” recently captured in Saudi Arabia.

In January, Saudi media reported that a vulture captured in the country was sent by the Mossad, after its captors found standard Israeli tracking marks on the bird. The vulture, like all other vultures born in captivity in Israel in recent years, hatched in the Biblical Zoo and was released from the Golan Heights.

The vulture’s story was told in a panel on “Birds as peacemakers in a conflict zone,” showcasing of the Zoo’s incubator and the return to nature of wild birds hatched there.
“Some of the project we initiate could be a bridge to our neighbors,” zoo director Shai Doron told Haaretz.

Doron said the zoo was extremely excited to host the conference.

“On their way are nearly mythological figures of the zoo-keeping world,” he said. “They are nearly leaders in their home countries. It’s not people like Shai Doron but slight more serious folks, with no disregard to myself.”

Some of the guests included the managers of the London Zoo; managers from the oldest zoo in the world, in Amsterdam; the managers of the Zurich zoo and the managers of the Copenhagen zoo, where a new 40-million-euro section for Asian elephants was recently inaugurated.

While relatively small, the Jerusalem zoo is world renowned for conservation efforts and the reintroduction of endangered species to the wild.

One of its most famous achievements is a rare in vitro fertilization of Tamar, an Asian elephant, using semen from a British elephant flown to Israel. The elephant born as a result, Gabi, was recently transported to Turkey, where he was successfully introduced to one of the local zoos. The Tamar and Gabi story will also be discussed at the conference.

Another reintroduction project said to be discussed in the conference is that of the fallow deer. Fallow deer have been released in the Jerusalem and Kaziv stream area, and the Nature and Parks authority is currently looking for an area to release deer in the Galilee as well.

The project was co-sponsored by the San Diego Zoo.

Some of the visitors used their trip to check on animals they’ve sent to Jerusalem in recent years. The Amsterdam zoo guests were able to meet the descendants of the black-footed penguins they’ve sent to the zoo, which had multiplied exponentially. “Israel will soon start exporting penguins to zoos worldwide,” said Doron.

The director of the Lisbon zoo paid a visit to the Siamang gibbon sent to the zoo just a few months ago. The ape, born in Portugal, was brought to Israel after a failed date with an Israeli ape named Richard, who was sent to Lisbon as part of a matchmaking effort.
She met her current partner, Dylan, soon after her arrival to the Jerusalem zoo.

EAZA is the world’s largest zoo body, and it operates the European program for saving endangered species. Israel became a member five years ago.

“The Jerusalem conference is going to be a lot of fun,” said Doron before the event. “The fact that 100 people from Europe are coming to the conference, in Jerusalem, knowing full well the event is happening in Jerusalem, means the Israeli-European relationship is still there, despite what we’ve been hearing lately. We are very proud that they are coming to Jerusalem.”