x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bird lovers have been warned against buying the animals, which are sold in pet shops in the UAE after being caught in the wild, as they can put the public at risk of disease, said Dr Peter Jaworski, a vet in Dubai.

An Indian rose-ringed parakeet eats a banana in its enclosure at the Zoological Park in New Delhi. Vets say that as many as nine out of 10 chicks captured will die before they reach pet shops, where the survivors are sold.  EPA
An Indian rose-ringed parakeet eats a banana in its enclosure at the Zoological Park in New Delhi. Vets say that as many as nine out of 10 chicks captured will die before they reach pet shops, where the survivors are sold. EPA

DUBAI // Ring-necked parakeets should not be kept as pets because they can pose a health risk and their sale takes little account of their welfare, veterinarians say.

The birds are sold in UAE pet shops after being caught in the wild, and as a result they can put their owners at risk of disease, said Dr Peter Jaworski, a vet and partner at the Advanced Pet Care Clinic in Al Wasl, Dubai.

He has observed the trade in ring-necked parakeets in the past five years and said that, for every animal bought as a pet, as many as nine die.

Some of the birds that arrive in pet shops are only a few days old and do not even have feathers.

“They are still blind,” said Dr Jaw-orski, pointing to a picture taken at a shop in Satwa this year.

When the chicks are taken from their parents at such a young age they have to be fed by people. This eliminates the bird’s natural behaviour and leads to disease and psychological problems.

In nature, parents feed their young non-stop, regurgitating small amounts of food that is already mixed with enzymes and other important elements to aid the chicks’ digestion.

Hand-rearing them requires access to special food and needs to be done in a way so as not to choke the bird by mistakenly putting food in the trachea.

Dr Jaworski has seen many parakeets that were given the wrong diet or fed in an inappropriate way, leading to injuries.

And when a chick is hand-reared it is not able to form bonds with other birds, identifying instead with human beings.

This high level of attachment, with the bird later seeing its owner as a parent or partner, becomes problematic if people do not spend enough time with the parakeet.

“In addition to the moral part of it, there are certain public-health implications,” Dr Jaworski said.

Birds caught in the wild carry bacteria and other disease-causing agents they can pass on to humans.

Some of the diseases initially display flu-like symptoms but may lead to serious conditions such as infertility or arthritis later in life.

With few natural predators in their native Asia and Africa, parakeets breed all year. The largest numbers are trapped in April and May. The birds first arrived in the UAE in the 1970s and are an invasive species. They are considered pests when they escape from their owners.

“They are not native but that does not really mean they should be eliminated,” Dr Jaworski said.

He said that in Europe, selling wild animals as pets was prohibited even for common species and that all animals sold as pets came with a health certificate.

Dubai Municipality could not be reached regarding the requirements for local pet shops.

Dr Jaworski advised people against buying ring-necked parakeets as pets, or any parrots whose origin is hard to determine.

“You are spreading mistreatment of animals and it is a health risk to you and your family,” he said.

“If you have considered all the factors and you really want a bird, come to the clinic, put yourself on the waiting list for adoption and it is a matter of time before you get the chance to own one.”

vtodorova@thenational.ae