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Importation of Wildlife

The main legislation regulating the import of wildlife in Australia is the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This legislation seeks to promote compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

It is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Criteria for Legality

Australia strictly controls the international movement of wildlife specimens, and in many cases a wildlife trade permit will be required to import.

You will need to check whether the species is on the CITES list in the Act, which contains any conditions or restrictions that may apply to a specimen. If your specimen is on the CITES list, you must apply to the Department for a permit to import.

Plant and animal specimens deemed suitable for live import into Australia are contained in the Live Import List. Part 1 contains specimens that can be brought into Australia without a permit under the Act, and Part 2 contains specimens that require a permit. If a specimen is not included on the list, it cannot be imported.

If a specimen is not CITES-listed and is not live, a permit is not required. If a plant species is not CITES-listed, its importation is governed by the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Under the Act, non-commercial imports of wildlife specimens may be allowed for one of the following purposes:

  • research;
  • education;
  • exhibition;
  • conservation breeding or propagation;
  • household pets;
  • personal items;
  • travelling exhibition.

A permit is required for each of these purposes and can be made online.

Criteria for Issuance of Permit

Section 303EN(3) states a permit must not be issued unless the Minister is satisfied that:

  • the proposed import would not be likely to threaten the conservation status of a species or ecological community;
  • the proposed import would not be likely to threaten biodiversity within Australia;
  • the specimen is included in Part 2 of the Live Import List;
  • any restriction or condition applicable to the specimen has been, or is likely to be, complied with;
  • there is no contravention of any applicable law of the Commonwealth, State or Territory;
  • any conditions associated with the welfare of the specimen have been, or are likely to be complied with.

The Minister has 40 business days to make a decision on a permit application.


Under the Act, it is an offence to import regulated wildlife to Australia without a valid wildlife trade permit. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 10 years or 1000 penalty units, or both.

Imported wildlife can be seized for other reasons including:

  • a valid permit was not produced for inspection at the border;
  • permit conditions were not met;
  • the existence of evidence that the item was brought illegally to Australia some time ago.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Sally Crosswell

This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

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