Coronavirus clips the wings of bird dealers

Pandemic-related travel restrictions are causing shortage in market


Asif Mehmood May 25, 2021

LAHORE:

While there are no direct Covid-related restrictions on the import of exotic birds, the suspension of international flights has triggered a shortage in markets across Punjab, leaving buyers with no option but to pay exorbitant prices for their favorite feathered pets.

According to details gathered by The Express Tribune, import of unique birds has been severely disrupted during the latest coronavirus surge. Not only has the pandemic impacted imports, the scarcity of exotic birds in the market has given carte blanche to sellers across the province, who appear to be maximising their profits.

“Some exotic birds that were easily available for Rs1 million are now selling for Rs2 million,” said Rana Mohammad Naeem, a Lahore-based aviculturist. Prices of locally raised birds and animals, he claimed, have also increased sharply during the latest phase of the pandemic. While purchasing such birds has become a challenge, vendors claim, it’s no longer easy to sell them during the lockdown and other Covid-related restrictions.

“There are very few buyers who make it to the market. Fears of getting infected through these birds and animals has kept many away from the market,” said one seller, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity.

When asked about the possibility of imported animals serving as possible carriers of the respiratory disease, a senior veterinary physician responded: “You’re more likely to get a disease from your neighbor, colleague or other acquaintances than any animal.”

Dealers believe the current wave of the pandemic has been the most devastating for the sale of exotic birds in Pakistan. Most of them blame the pandemic-related travel restrictions for the increase in prices. “Local breeds are not enough. Even if we want to import, we can’t because of the suspension of flights from various countries,” said Khalid Iqbal, who heads the association bird dealers in Punjab.

On the other hand, the provincial wildlife department claims there are no restrictions on the import of exotic birds. “Import of non-native birds was prohibited till December 31, 2020. Now all such restrictions have been removed,” said Tanveer Ahmad Janjua, who serves as the deputy director at the Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department. Janjua insisted that the sale of locally raised animals and birds has continued – even during the toughest days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prices

A survey of the market reveals that almost all imported birds are now being sold at 40-50% more than the pre-pandemic rates.

The green macaw, commonly known as Buffon’s macaw, which is found in Central and South America, is being sold for Rs400,000.

Similarly, the hyacinth macaw, the blue-and-yellow macaw, a large parrot with mostly blue top parts and light orange underparts, is being sold for up to 40% more than the pre-pandemic rate -- which was Rs130,000.

Most birds from the macaw group that are known for their long-tails and often colorful appearance are imported from the United States, which currently is offering limited flights.

Other birds that now appear to be out of the buyer’s range are the all-time favorites, fun-loving, and intelligent cockatoo parrots that occur naturally only in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and some Pacific regions. Cockatoo parrots, according to one buyer, are now being sold for Rs100,000 more than their previous price, which was Rs150,000.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2021.

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