Capital pet shops hit hard by bird flu scare

ABU DHABI — The bird flu scare from Asia, coupled with the clampdown on bird imports from some countries by the authorities here, has taken a heavy toll on the local pet shops market, with sales dropping by at least 40 per cent.

By Wael Yousef

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Published: Mon 22 Aug 2005, 10:10 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:15 PM

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, assuring that there was no incidence of bird flu in the country, has chalked out emergency plans to prevent the disease from reaching the shores of the UAE. The exigency plan would be implemented at all the 32 entry points into the country including air, sea and land routes.

Says Abd Jamal, owner of Petland: "We can't import canary birds from Thailand and other birds from countries like Taiwan as we used to in the past. We are now depending on aquarium sales to compensate losses from ornamental birds. We now import canaries from Germany and South Africa at rates much higher than the Dh50 that we used to pay for imports from Taiwan."

He said if he were to buy the birds from his country, Lebanon, it would cost him around Dh90 plus another Dh20 for shipping the birds.

"But, there is no use selling the birds at rates less than Dh150, since we also have to take into account death of birds in transit," he said, adding that no customer would be willing to pay this price.

Such difficulties prompted Abd to cancel his import trading licence while retaining the sales licence. He now buys birds from customers who are willing to sell them and from traders who collectively bring-in large numbers of birds because of high import fees.

"The Ministry of Agriculture used to charge Dh200 for each import permit, which has now been increase to Dh500," he added.

Khalid Al Za'abi, an amateur bird-breeder, said he had in his garden a large cage for breeding birds and other animals. "Sometimes, I go to the animal market in Sharjah on Wednesdays to buy animals at prices which are lower than in Abu Dhabi," he said, adding that when he returned from a vacation in Syria, he brought with him ten sparrows via Abu Dhabi Airport. "No one asked me where I got the birds from," he said.

Waheed Ahmed, owner of 'Wonders of the Sea,' said: "Customers nowadays are particular about being told where the birds have been imported from, and whether they are disease-free." This in addition to other information they obtain from cards issued by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

Waheed believes that shop-owners do not suffer from the import restrictions since they price the birds at their will. "The victims are the customers who are forced to pay high prices," he said.

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