Photographs of a ‘spy raptor’ killed while flying over the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan were disseminated over the social media. The ‘raptor’ was a Macqueen’s Bustard, Chlamydotis macqueenii carrying a satellite transmitter assembly and a red leg ring with an inscription K34. The National Avian Research Centre (NARC), Abu Dhabi, has extensively studied the biology of C. macqueenii. The killed bustard was one of the captive-bred bustards participating in NARC’s monitoring of their migration. Inquiry showed that this bustard was shot in Afghanistan in 2014 and not in India in 2016 as reported. The report from Afghanistan described this bird as a Taliban drone fitted with a bomb vest. The Indian television channel broadcast this news and misinformed its viewers by calling this bird a spy sent over by Pakistan. The Afghanistan report misdirected this incident to blame the Taliban. The Indian television did the same to incriminate Pakistan. The misconceived labelling of a bird participating in a scientific study as a spy has led to misinformation and misdirection that can provoke international aggression. This paper argues that a Macqueen’s bustard contributing to scientific knowledge for conservation has been killed unnecessarily and appeals for an improvement in the knowledge of security agencies about birds carrying identification tags and tracking devices.
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