A young bird lover was reunited with his prized pet macaw after it made a break for freedom during an outdoor flying exercise in Dubai.
Zayan Thassim, 10, was devastated when four-month-old Elijah went missing on April 19 near Hercules Tower in Living Legends, a gated community in the emirate.
Zayan, who is autistic, has built up a strong bond with his feathered friend and the family's other bird, Gizmo, an African grey parrot.
His father Tazmir Thassim, who lives in Dubai with Zayan and his siblings Wildan, 7 and Wanna, 6, said the birds play a huge part in his son's life.
“My son, Zayan, is autistic and does not have any friends or communicate with his siblings, so the two birds mean everything to him,” said Mr Thassim, who is from Montreal, Canada and works for Cisco.
Zayan attends speech therapy at the Kids First centre in Al Wasl and attends a behaviour enrichment centre for full-time learning.
His two birds give him most interaction and comfort.
Mr Thassim said Elijah was probably spooked by birds of prey in the area and flew off to seek refuge.
“He is trained for free flight and I regularly take him to the desert to fly, but he usually doesn’t take off like that,” he said.
“They can fly for two kilometres or so before coming back."
Elijah flew off towards a restricted area in Al Barari, making the search more challenging.
Mr Thassim took off in his SUV to try to find the bird, using a specific whistle and calling out his name to attract him home.
Tight security in the area made it difficult to do a thorough search for the bird, so Mr Thassim was reliant on his whistle.
After 20 minutes of searching, he saw Elijah fly towards a nearby building and land on the roof.
The next day, permission was granted for Mr Thassim to enter the building to rescue Elijah and take him home to a delighted family.
“The bonding with Elijah after I found him in the roof top was very unexpected, he came towards me and gave me a hug,” he said.
“The only friends Zayan has are the two birds.
“If anything happened to either, it would be devastating for him. They have a close bond with Zayan, and with the other two kids.
“When they were reunited, it was very emotional for all of them.”
Macaws can cost up to $1,500 (Dh5,500) and make excellent pets.
The brightly-coloured birds are sociable, crave company and are renowned for their attention seeking, clownish behaviour.
Exotic feathers and large beaks make them hard to miss, and they can be friendly and affectionate towards people.
Mr Thassim passed his love of birds on to his children.
“I’m crazy about animals, but I didn’t know when I first bought the birds that Zayan would be so attached to them,” he said.
“They are unbelievably close. Free flight is a risk, no matter how well trained they are, we could lose them.
"Wild birds are around and it takes only a second for my birds to get scared.
"A lot of people in the community heard the story and want to come and see Elijah, he has become a local celebrity."