Pets as exotic as the European-bred falcons and Australian bajri parrots, aquarium fishes and well-bred animals have lured Arab families and expatriates to the three-decade-old Birds and Animals Market in Sharjah. 
Started as an open souq in the early 1980s, the Birds and Animals Market was officially inaugurated in 1996 following a major facelift to its current shape. It simply is the rendezvous for pet lovers for a wide range of hawks, ducks, parrots, pigeons, peacocks, dogs, cats and xcollar pince. Anyone looking for the best is ushered to an array of exotic birds, colourful aquarium fishes and animals.
A stand out among these pets are the falcons from as far as Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Russia and China to as near as Oman. European-bred falcons command the best prices — between Dh2,000 and Dh1 million a bird. They are hooded to cover their eyes to keep them calm and sit on a wooden latch. Their legs have metal rings bearing the telephone number and the passport number of the breeder.
Jaffar Ali Khan from Pakistan, 47, said that he has been operating his bird shop for the past 35 years. “We import our falcons from Falcon Centre, MC Falcon and Pro Falcon in Germany. If we have good falcons, many will come and buy them.”
He says that more than 80 to 100 falcons are on sale in a season, that is between September and March. “The breeding season is from June to July after which the falcons are up for sale. Arabs, mostly Emiratis, are the top buyers of falcons. An Emirati kid’s first wish is to buy a falcon and keep it in his home.”
Haji Ghulam Din, 60, who owns a pet shop which has been in the souq for ten years, says that he imports falcons from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and Russia. “My shop only sells canary and falcons.”
Nepali Mohammed Anwarul Islam, 27, says his shop earns between Dh5,000 and Dh6,000 monthly from Australian bajri, cockatiel, love birds, jabra, canary, Indian parrot, grey parrot, peacock, parakeet and slow loris. “Favourite bird pets are bajri, cockatiel, love bird, canary, Indian parrot and grey parrot. Feeding 400 birds in this shop costs us more than Dh3,000 every month.”
Sultan Abdullah Al Mualla, Director-General of the Sharjah Municipality, says that the municipality takes preventive measures to ensure that animals and birds are free from any diseases, and when any animal or bird dies, a medical team will check the carcass to know the causes of death.
“The municipality has set up a control mechanism to prevent the entry of any birds or animals from the local farms into the market without undergoing checking by the veterinary team at the market,” he says.
The souq, which was set up to make sure health requirements are followed, is being inspected by the Market Control Section and Inspection Section periodically, which checks the animals and birds on display and make sure they are fit and free from any diseases. Workers in the Birds and Animals Market also carry health cards and disease-free certificates, which are issued with training and medical examination to make sure they are free from any diseases.
Currently, a study is being made to further renovate the souq , which will include a comprehensive upgrading of airconditioning, cleaning and ventilation systems.
By Lily B.