The data from birds of prey help the israeli army locate dead bodies around the sites of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants, said a wildlife expert involved in the program.
Eagles, vultures and other birds of prey equipped with tracking devices have played a role in the search for human remains, said Ohad Hatzofe of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
“When the war started I was approached by some reservists serving in this unit,” said Hadjofe. “They asked me if my birds could help with anything.”
The idea came from EITAN, a unit of the military’s human resources branch, which is responsible for locating missing soldiers.
Hatjofe heads a program that monitors endangered vultures, which feed mainly on dead animals, as well as eagles and other birds of prey, which he said also eat scavengers.
The program has tagged hundreds of birds with GPS tracking devices to study their migratory habits, feeding habits and 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 Beri, just outside the Gaza Strip.
“I sent my data” to the military, Hajofe said.
“They went to verify them and recovered four bodies,” he said, without being able to divulge more about the location or identity of the bodies.
Beri, a rural kibbutz community, found 85 residents dead when Hamas fighters stormed the heavily 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 has retaliated with relentless bombardments and a ground invasion that Hamas’ Gaza health ministry says have killed more than 10,500 people, also mostly civilians.
In Berri, another 30 are missing or believed to be among the approximately 240 hostages taken by Hamas during its attack.
Hajofe said data from a second bird, a Bonelli’s eagle, allowed finding “more bodies inside Israel.”
Israeli police announced 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 listed as missing have not been found or identified.