Keeping exotic (non-native) animals

Exotic birds and fish

About exotic animals

Animals that do not occur naturally in the wild in Australia are defined as ‘exotic animals’.

While you are allowed to own a wide range of exotic animals, there are some restrictions. These restrictions:

  • protect Australia against exotic pests and diseases that could threaten our unique environment, and agricultural and tourism industries
  • protect Australian communities against potentially dangerous animals
  • protect endangered species from uncontrolled trade, which can lead to population decline and extinction.

Buying exotic animals

Some of the exotic animals available in Australia have been imported illegally despite Australia’s strict import laws. Possessing illegally imported animals (or their offspring) is an offence under national environment law.

The illegal import of wildlife is a notoriously cruel business. Smuggled animals suffer stress, dehydration, or starvation and many more animals die than reach pet owners.

You can help by making sure that you are not buying or keeping illegally imported animals. You'll be helping to protect Australia, and stop wildlife smuggling and related cruelty. You might also be protecting yourself from a hefty fine.

Laws for exotic animal trade

The import of live animals into Australia is controlled by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and the Quarantine Act 1908. These laws apply to anyone who intends to bring a live exotic animal into Australia. In order to be eligible for import into Australia, a species must be listed on the List of Specimens Taken to be Suitable for Live Import.

State exotic animal laws

Australian states and territories have laws on the private keeping of exotic animals within their borders. These laws set out the types of animals, number of animals, and conditions under which animals can be kept.

Penalties

The penalty for illegal possession under national environment law is gaol of up to five years and/or a fine of up to $110,000.

Legal and illegal exotic animals

If you are thinking about buying an exotic animal, first check that it was imported legally to Australia, or is allowed to be owned in Australia.

Likely to be legal

The following animals are likely to be legal:

Check if legal or not

Check whether these animals were imported into Australia legally:

Unlikely to be legal

Australian Government records show that these groups of exotic animals have never been imported legally into Australia to be kept by individuals for private purposes:

  • primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys
  • exotic reptiles such as snakes, lizards, geckoes, alligators, crocodiles, turtles, tortoise
  • exotic birds not included in the above lists
  • exotic arachnids such as scorpions and spiders
  • exotic insects such as butterflies, beetles, millipedes and giant cockroaches
  • skunks, stoats, otters and their relatives
  • exotic echidna, anteaters and their relatives
  • exotic bats and their relatives
  • exotic coral (live)
  • exotic fish not included in the lists above
  • exotic molluscs
  • moles, hedgehogs, shrews
  • exotic rodents other than domestic guinea pig Cavia porcellus, domestic (house) mouse Mus musculus, brown rat Rattus norvegicus and black rat Rattus rattus and other rodents listed on the 'Check if legal' list above
  • exotic amphibians such as salamanders, frogs and newts not included on Part 2 of the live import list.

Remember. You must meet all relevant laws. Make sure that you can keep the animal legally in your state or territory before you buy it.

Please, don't release your exotic animals

Releasing exotic animals into the wild may damage the environment. It could introduce an exotic disease or pathogen or become a pest itself. Exotic animals threaten our unique environment, agriculture and the tourism industry. It is also cruel to the animal as it is likely to die from exposure or starvation.

Permits

If you would like to import a live exotic animal into Australia you may need to apply for a permit.

Contact

The Director
Wildlife Trade Regulation Section
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6274 1900
Facsimile: (02) 6274 1921
Email: exotic.species@environment.gov.au