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Saudi Arabia

One of the largest markets in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for wild animals, birds and reptiles is the Al-Ahdl Market, located in the Khoumrah County, south of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It includes all types of exotic birds, reptiles, and animals.

In January 2018, in conjunction with the local police, a team of veterinarians affiliated with the Ministry of Environment confiscated 6,500 birds from the Al-Ahdl Market after positive cases of a bird flu virus, type H5N8, emerged in the market.

Royal Decree M/9 of 6/3/1421 (Hijiri) corresponding to June 8, 2000, regulates the possession and trade of wild creatures and their production.

The Director of the Environmental Health Department in Jeddah has announced the establishment of the Joint Deceases Commission. The main purpose of the commission is to monitor any violations concerning the sanitary requirements in the Al-Ahdl Market that might cause an outbreak of any kind.

I. Introduction

One of the largest markets in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for wild animals, birds, and reptiles is the Al-Ahdl Market located in the Khoumrah County, south of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Al-Ahdl Market only takes place on Fridays. It is a street market. It includes all types of exotic birds, reptiles, and animals. For instance, sellers in the market may offer different types of lizards, nonvenomous snakes such as pythons, and sometimes venomous snakes including cobras.[1] Wild animals for sale in the market include cape hyraxes, caracals, hyenas, and wild foxes. Likewise, the market offers a variety of birds such as eagles, peafowls, and curlews.[2] Different types of monkeys also are available in the market.[3] 

In January 2018, in conjunction with the local police, a team of veterinarians affiliated with the Ministry of Environment confiscated 6,500 birds from the Al-Ahdl Market after positive cases of a bird flu virus called H5N8 emerged in the market.[4] Based on news reports, some bird sellers in the market voiced their concern about the spread of viruses and diseases in the market due to a poor level of hygiene and the failure to enforce health and environmental requirements.[5]

II. Possession and Trade of Wild Creatures

A. Royal Decree M/9 of 6/3/1421

Royal Decree M/9 of 6/3/1421 (Hijri) corresponding to June 8, 2000, regulates the possession and trade of wild creatures and its production. The Royal Decree defines the term “production of a wild animal” as any raw or processed parts of the animal’s body. The Decree defines the term “trade” as offer and transport of an animal for the purpose of sale.[6] It also bans the sale of wild creatures without the permission of the National Wildlife Protection Authority.[7]

The Decree grants authority to the local police, with the cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, to inspect animal markets and means of transportation to ensure the implementation of the Decree.[8]

Violation of the Decree will be punished by a fine not exceeding 10,000 Saudi Riyals (about US$2,665). In the event of repetition of the violation, the amount of fine will be doubled.[9] Furthermore, the wild animal that was offered for sale will be confiscated, and the seller must pay for the animal’s food and housing after it is confiscated by the appropriate authorities.[10]

B. Prohibition of Bushmeat Under Islamic Law

Saudi Islamic jurists, such as Abdul Aziz Ibn al-Baz, claim that the consumption of bushmeat is forbidden under Islamic law. Ibn Al-Baz bases his legal opinion on one of the speeches of the Prophet Mohammed. The speech was recounted by Ibn Abbas, one of the Prophet’s companions. Ibn Abbas has reported that “Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) forbade (the eating) of all the fanged beasts of prey, and of all the birds having talons.” [11]

III. Sanitary Measures and Enforcement

A. Sanitary Measures

The Director of the Environmental Health Department in Jeddah has announced the establishment of the Joint Diseases Commission. The main purpose of the commission is to monitor any violations concerning the sanitary requirements in the Al-Ahdl Market that might cause an outbreak of any kind. The Director stated that 100 health observers are assigned to monitor health violations in the market as well.[12]

In March 2020, the General Administration for Environmental Control ordered the closing and disinfecting of the market as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.[13]

B. Enforcement

In November 2019, in cooperation with the local police, a team from the Ministry of Environment conducted an inspection in the Al-Ahdl Market to ensure that merchants maintain the cleanness of the market to prevent any future bird flu outbreak or epidemic. The local police and the team were able to identify violators during the inspection. They also took some random samples from the birds and animals in the market to check on any infectious diseases that they might carry.[14]

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Prepared by George Sadek
Foreign Law Specialist
August 2020


[1] Amer Hilabi, Jeddah Animal and Bird Souk: A Haven for the Rare and Wonderful, Saudi Gazette (Jan. 5, 2013), https://saudigazette.com.sa/article/27343.

[2] Turkey Al-Qhtani, Birds Market in Jeddah Sells All Unique Birds and Animals from Bulbuls to Horses, Al Madinah (May 24, 2013), https://perma.cc/ETF8-SDKD (in Arabic).

[3] Heavy Crowd Weekly in the Animal Market of Jeddah, Amoon (May 2, 2013) https://perma.cc/D3MS-NZHD (in Arabic).

[4] Dawood Al-Kathiri, Ministry of Environment Gets Rid of 6,500 Birds and Shuts Down Al-Ahdl Market, Al Madinah (Jan. 5, 2018), https://perma.cc/4GW4-43F2 (in Arabic).

[5] Mouhannad Qhtan, Birds in the Al-Ahdl Market—A Story That Has Not Ended Yet, Al-Balad ( July 8, 2019), https://perma.cc/J6ES-7W62 (in Arabic).

[6] Royal Decree M/9 of 6/3/1421 (Hijri) corresponding to June 8, 2000, posted on the Cabinet website, https://perma.cc/KN6J-NFQW (in Arabic).

[7] Id. art. 3.

[8] Id. art. 6.

[9] Id. art. 7(a).

[10] Id. art. 7(b).

[11] Religious Decree (fatwa) issued by Abdul Aziz Ibn Al-baz on the prohibition of eating bushmeat, https://binbaz.org.sa/fatwas/17092/حكم-اكل-الحيوانات-البرية-ذوات-الظفر-والناب (in Arabic). See also Sahih Muslim, vol. 21, Hadith (speech) no. 4754, https://perma.cc/E6BV-4XAQ.

[12] Turkey Al-Qhtani, supra note 2.

[13] The Closure of Auctions Avenues for Birds in the Jeddah Market, Bawabaa News (Mar. 8, 2020), https://perma.cc/K9CR-LZJ5 (in Arabic).

[14] Abdallah Al-Jarhi, Jeddah: A Quattro Commission Stands in the Al-Ahdl Market and Finds 13 Violations (Nov. 9, 2019), https://perma.cc/3UE5-DSXC (in Arabic).

Last Updated: 12/31/2020