Only approved zoos, aquariums or wildlife parks can import exotic or unusual animals for zoological, breeding or conservation purposes.
Importing zoo animals - step-by-step guide
This step-by-step guide will help you understand the requirements for importing zoo animals.
Please read the information below and follow each step.
Fees and charges
There are 4 sections of the department involved in approvals for zoo animals to be imported to Australia. Fees and charges may be associated with each section’s assessment of your application.
- Listings and Threat Abatement - responsible for assessing environmental risks and adding species to the Live Import List
- Animal and Biological Imports - responsible for assessing biosecurity risks and issuing import permits.
- Approved Arrangements - responsible for auditing and approving sites and facilities used for holding imported zoo animals for the duration of the post-arrival quarantine period.
- Wildlife Trade Assessments - responsible for assessing and issuing wildlife import permits, including under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
This information has been provided as a guide only and is not a replacement for the import conditions included on an import permit. The steps outlined below are subject to change without notice. All current biosecurity import conditions can be accessed through BICON.
Step 1: Check the animal is a permitted species
Only some live animal species are permitted to be imported into Australia.
Before a species of animal is considered eligible for import, the department must consider the risk that the animal poses to Australia. Some animals may introduce unwanted exotic disease or become established as a pest species and threaten our environment.
Review the information below to determine if the species you would like to import is eligible.
Does the species appear on the Live Import List?
- The species being considered for import must appear on the Live Import List. The Live Import List is administered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 by the Listings and Threat Abatement section. Environmental assessments are performed under this legislation. If a species is not on the Live Import List then it cannot be imported.
- For information about applying to add a species to the list, visit the department’s Live Import List webpage.
- If the species is on the Live Import List, you will then need to check if it appears in BICON.
- If the species does not appear on the Live Import List, it will not appear in BICON and it will not be permitted for import.
Does the species appear in BICON?
- Each species must also be assessed for biosecurity risks. This is known as a Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis. Species that have been assessed will appear in BICON, the department’s biosecurity import conditions database.
- If the species is included on the Live Import List and appears in BICON, read the import conditions thoroughly and determine if you will be able to meet them.
- If the species is included on the Live Import List but not in BICON it may not yet have been assessed for potential biosecurity risks. Contact the Animal and Biological Imports section for more information.
Step 2: Confirm the import facility is approved
Zoo animals are only permitted to be imported into a zoo, aquarium or wildlife park which is approved under relevant Australian state or territory legislation to hold the species being imported. The importing zoo may need to apply to become a recognised zoological organisation prior to applying for a wildlife permit to import the species.
The information below will help you determine what department approvals may be required for the importing facility.
Has the importing zoo been assessed to meet the behavioural and biological needs of the species?
- All zoo animal importing facilities require an environmental facility assessment to evaluate its suitability to meet the behavioural and biological needs of the species planned for import.
- Facilities are required to:
- demonstrate that they have state/territory approval to hold the species prior to import.
- demonstrate that they are able to meet the biological and behavioural needs of the animals proposed for import, as well as meet the purpose of the import under the EPBC Act eg conservation breeding, exhibition.
- Additional information can be found on the department’s webpage International wildlife trade or by emailing the Wildlife Trade Assessments section
- Applications and approvals for environmental facility assessments are managed by the Wildlife Trade Assessment section of the department.
Wildlife permit assessments and applications are separate from, and are required in addition to, the biosecurity assessments and import permit applications.
Has the importing zoo been assessed to meet the post-arrival quarantine requirements?
- An Approved Arrangement (AA site) allows zoos to operate and manage biosecurity risks using their own sites, facilities, equipment, and people without constant supervision by the department. The department undertakes regular compliance monitoring and auditing activities at the AA site. Applications and approvals for AA sites are managed by the Approved Arrangement section of the department.
- You will need to ensure that the area being considered to hold the imported animal for post arrival quarantine is approved to hold that species and meets the Class 7.9 facility requirements for zoo animals. You may need to provide additional information such as Standard Operating Procedure manuals, and book an audit with the department prior to import. The AA site must have been audited and approved by the department for holding the species planned for import, within 12 months prior to the biosecurity import permit being granted.
- The date and outcome of past AA audits will be reviewed as part of the biosecurity import permit assessment. A biosecurity import permit will not be issued if the last audit was more than 12 months ago.
- More information about the Approved Arrangement process can be found on the Approved Arrangements webpage under the ‘Class 7 – 7.9 Zoo Animals’ dropdown. This includes the AA criteria for zoo animals, additional information to help importers determine if they need to apply for a new AA approval or an audit, and what is required after the animal is released from biosecurity control.
- If the zoo does not have an existing AA site you will need to select a suitable area within the zoo and apply to become an approved arrangement. Alternately, you may be able to use another zoo’s AA site. This would need to be privately negotiated and managed by the zoos involved.
A biosecurity import permit cannot be granted without a current Approved Arrangement.
Step 3: Confirm the export facility meets our requirements
The export facility, or premises of origin, must be a registered zoo, aquarium or wildlife park which is approved by the government of the exporting country to hold the species.
The information below will help you determine what additional information or approvals may be required for the exporting facility.
Does the export facility meet Australian import conditions?
- Australian import conditions may require the exporting facility to be in a country that is free from particular diseases, depending on the species you would like to import. The exporting facility may also be required to be certified by the exporting government as a premises free from particular diseases. You must review the Australian import conditions and ensure the exporting facility and the government of the exporting country are able to meet and certify to all Australian import conditions.
- All species require a period of pre-export quarantine isolation prior to import to Australia. You must ensure that the exporting facility has a suitable area for the animal planned for export to be isolated from other animals. If this isn’t possible, the department may consider approvals for the animal planned for export to remain in contact with other animals in a group, but all animals in the group must meet the same pre-export requirements, even if every animal isn’t being exported.
- There may be other requirements associated with your specimen for more information please see the website.
Are you required to provide a Pre-Export Quarantine Standard Operating Procedures manual?
- The department may require a Pre-Export Quarantine Standard Operating Procedures manual (PEQ SOP) to be provided and assessed as part of an import permit assessment. Generally, a PEQ SOP will be required if the exporting zoo hasn’t exported a species from a taxonomic group, for example primates, felids or reptiles, within the last 2 years. However, there may be other instances where a PEQ SOP is requested. Contact the Animal and Biological Imports section to determine if a PEQ SOP will be required for the proposed import. If a PEQ SOP is required, submit the PEQ SOP with the permit application in BICON.
- A PEQ SOP must demonstrate how the exporting zoo will ensure the Australian import conditions will be met. The document will be assessed against the import conditions and any specific pre-export quarantine requirements. If there is insufficient information to determine that the biosecurity risk is acceptably low, the department may request additional information such as pathology reports, require the facility to be audited by department staff, or refuse to grant an import permit.
- A PEQ SOP template has been developed to help zoos consider the information that may be included. This will vary depending on the species being imported and the template can be adjusted accordingly. The department recognises that there are many ways to manage pre-export quarantine and the PEQ SOP template provides a guide while allowing the flexibility to demonstrate how they will meet requirements.
|Pre-Export Quarantine Standard Operating Procedures Manual for Zoo Animals template DOCX||5||33 KB|
If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.
Step 4: Apply for the permit
You should only begin applying for permits once you have reviewed all import conditions and determined that the requirements can be met.
Does the species require CITES permit and/or wildlife trade permits?
- If the species requires either a CITES permit or a Wildlife trade permit, you will need to submit an application through the Wildlife Trade Assessments section.
Does the species require a biosecurity import permit?
- All live animals require a biosecurity import permit. Applications must be submitted through BICON and include any required supporting documentation, for example any required Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) with the application.
Once permits have been granted, you must ensure all requirements listed on the permits are met.
Step 5: Prepare for import
Have you prepared a movement plan for the imported animal?
- You must develop a documented plan for the movement of the imported animal from the airport to the nominated AA site and submit this to the department. Include details about any expected media attention. Further details will be on your import permit.
Have you notified the department and booked inspections?
- Notify the department’s office in the state of import in writing at least 3 working days prior to the import. Departmental contact details can be found on the biosecurity import permit.
- Book the required inspections with the department’s office in the state of import.
Are you ready for import?
- You must ensure all permits and supporting documentation required to accompany the animal (e.g. health certificate and laboratory reports) is prepared and endorsed correctly. Document requirements are included in import permits.
- If not already done so, consider engaging the services of a broker for cargo lodgement.
Step 6: Review arrival procedures
Do you understand the department’s arrival procedures?
- A biosecurity officer will meet the aircraft on arrival in Australia to visually verify the health of the animal in its transport crate, and assess the original documents to ensure import conditions have been met.
- The biosecurity officer will also issue biosecurity directions requiring the animal to be moved to the AA site and undergo a period of post-entry quarantine isolation. The directions will be issued to the zoo’s representative and must be complied with.
- In some instances, a biosecurity officer may escort the animal and zoo representative back to the nominated AA site. Alternately, the biosecurity officer will liaise with the importing zoo to determine a suitable time during post-arrival quarantine isolation to undertake a visual inspection.
- Any personnel travelling with, or in contact with the animal must undertake a decontamination process in a manner that is acceptable to the department prior to leaving the airport or AA site. The biosecurity officer will also supervise, or issue biosecurity directions, to ensure any material of biosecurity concern is disposed of as biosecurity waste.
Step 7: Verify the animal's identity
Are you prepared to verify the animal’s identity?
- The animal’s identity must be verified against the import permits to ensure the correct animal and quantity of animals have arrived. The imported animal must be scanned to ensure its microchip matches the number identified on the import permits and health certificate. Verifying the animal’s identity provides assurance that the animal that has had its health status certified by the exporting government, is the same animal that has arrived in Australia.
- You must liaise with the regional biosecurity officers to determine if the animal’s microchip will be scanned in the presence of a biosecurity officer, or if preferred, the importing zoo will provide photographic evidence clearly showing the scanner with each animal’s microchip number. If photographic evidence is preferred, the microchip numbers in the images must be legible, the photo must be date stamped (this can usually be found in the ‘properties’ of a digital photo) and the images must be emailed to the department prior to release of the animal from biosecurity control.
Step 8: Complete quarantine isolation period
Do you understand the quarantine isolation requirements?
- The animal must complete a minimum mandatory quarantine isolation period immediately after arrival into Australia as noted on the import permit.
- If the consignment was not escorted by the biosecurity officer to the AA site, a visual inspection will be performed within the first few days of arrival.
- Any remaining items that accompanied the consignment during transit to Australia must be disposed of as biosecurity waste or if appropriate, disinfected as per department directions.
- The importing zoo must immediately advise the department of any changes in health status of the imported animal during the quarantine isolation period. This includes any abnormal results from examinations or on-site tests conducted at the AA site.
- If samples need to be collected and sent off site for testing, the importing zoo must request approval from the department prior to removing anything such as blood, tissue, faeces or parasites from the AA site.
Step 9: Submit release documentation
Are you familiar with the release procedures?
- After the minimum quarantine isolation period has been completed, the importing zoo must submit all relevant release documentation to the department’s office in the state of import. Departmental contact details can be found on the biosecurity import permit.
- A department veterinarian will assess the release documentation and if satisfied, the release from biosecurity control process will be initiated.
- Any waste created during the quarantine isolation period including bedding and excrement, must be disposed of as biosecurity waste or if appropriate, disinfected as per department directions as noted in the Class 7.9 Approved Arrangement criteria.
- After the animal has been released from biosecurity control, the AA site may be put into voluntary suspension by completing the Request for suspension of an approved arrangement – non broker arrangements form and liaising with the Approved Arrangements area.
- See the suspending or revoking non-broker approved arrangements webpage for further details on this process.
Wooden transport crates
View the department’s timber and bamboo packaging webpage for further details on wooden packaging materials usage.
Animal transport equipment
Please see the department’s movement advice for animal transport equipment webpage for further details on this process.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Phone: 1800 900 090 (+61 3 8318 6700 from outside Australia)
Animal and Biological Imports Email: email@example.com