Non-native animals

General information

Non-native animals (also known as exotic or non-indigenous animals), have been introduced to Australia from the time of the arrival of European settlers. The first settlers brought with them commercially important livestock including pigs, cattle, rabbits and horses. However, feral populations of these species started to develop and spread after being deliberately released or escaping from captivity. Over time, additional non-native animals have been introduced to Australia, through legal, illegal and accidental pathways.

Non-native animals can pose biosecurity risks to the NSW economy, environment and community.

Non-native animals impact negatively on the natural environment and commercial enterprises through predation, competition for food and shelter, destruction of habitat, and by spreading exotic animal diseases.

In addition, some non-native animals can threaten human health and safety through the transmission of diseases, or causing vehicle accidents.

The management of existing non-native invasive animal populations and preventing the introduction and establishment of new non-native animal species are key concerns for the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI).

The Biosecurity Act 2015 (the Act) provides the legislative framework for managing the biosecurity risks of non-native animals. The Act controls and regulates the entry of certain non-native animals into NSW, and the movement and keeping of those animals within the State through registrations and permits. The registrations and permits impose conditions to ensure the risks of keeping non-native animal species are adequately managed, such as security and safety requirements to prevent the escape of animals.

What influences the regulation of privately kept non-native animals?

There are many factors that influence the regulation of non-native animals in NSW. These include:

Agreement by Australian states and territories to develop legislation for the purpose of imposing controls over the entry, movement and keeping of introduced non-native animals by zoos, circuses and the general public.

Commitment by the Australian Government to the 1992 International Convention on Biological Diversity, which recommends that where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimise such a threat.

Assessment and recommendations of the Invasive Plants and Animals Committee (IPAC), which develops guidelines for the regulation and management of species non-native to Australia that are harmful or potentially harmful to agriculture, the natural environment, or are dangerous to public safety.

The guidelines are used by Australian state and territory governments to achieve uniformity in regulatory and management approaches.

IPAC assigns non-native species to one of four threat categories (extreme, serious, moderate or low) by considering:

  • the risk that an escaped or released individual would harm people,
  • the risk that escaped or released individuals would establish a wild free-living population, and
  • the risk that the species would be a pest if a wild population did establish.

In 2016 - 2017, NSW DPI conducted a review of species categorisations to identify appropriate management approaches for non-native animals under the Act and Biosecurity Regulation 2017 (the Regulation).

The following factors were also considered in the review:

  • best practice security requirements for keeping and transporting a species,
  • the degree to which the species, if actually or potentially a pest, is already established or present in NSW, and
  • the welfare requirements of the species.

Registrations and Permits

A person must have a non-indigenous animal biosecurity registration to keep the following non-native animal species (listed in Schedule 4 of the Act), unless they are authorised under the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986 or Animal Research Act 1985:

  • Antilope cervicapra (blackbuck)
  • Camelus dromedarius (dromedary camel or Arabian camel), unless the animal is in any part of NSW other than the Western Division and is permanently identified in a manner approved by the Secretary
  • Lama guanicoe (guanaco)

It is an offence to keep or be in charge of these animals without a biosecurity registration. Registrations are only issued to persons, corporations or incorporated associations, and are not issued to partnerships or business names.

The Act also provides for the private keeping of certain higher-risk non-native species under a biosecurity permit. Privately kept higher-risk non-native animals are considered to introduce unacceptable biosecurity risks. Therefore, the private keeping of higher-risk non-native species is being phased out. Biosecurity permits for species listed in Schedule 3, Part 3 of the Act will only be issued if the keeper held a valid licence under the Non-Indigenous Animals Act 1987 immediately before 1 July 2017.

It is no longer necessary to hold a NSW DPI authority to privately keep the following livestock species: water buffalo (Bubulis bubulis), American bison (Bison bison) and banteng (Bos javanicus).

The management of biosecurity risks associated with these species is provided for under the Biosecurity (National Livestock Identification System) Regulation 2017, Local Land Services Act 2013, and the general biosecurity duty provision within the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Please see the Local Land Services livestock information page for further information.

Biosecurity Registration conditions

Biosecurity registrations may be issued with a combination of general and specific conditions aimed at managing the biosecurity risks associated with the animal(s).

The general conditions which apply to biosecurity registrations are outlined in the Procedure for Biosecurity Registrations (PDF, 230.13 KB) and should be reviewed before an application for a biosecurity registration is completed and submitted to the NSW DPI.

Specific conditions that may be included in a biosecurity registration include: minimum security standards for animal enclosures, addresses for properties such as veterinary facilities where an animal is anticipated to be moved to from time-to-time, prohibitions on breeding, and maximum numbers of animals able to be kept.

  • Biosecurity registration application:  $720 for five years
  • Biosecurity registration renewal application: $420 for five years
  • Biosecurity registration variation application: $70 per hour
  • Biosecurity permit application: $720 for five years
  • Biosecurity permit application: $720 for five years. A reduced fee of $420 will be applied to existing licence holders under the Non-Indigenous Animals Act 1987 subject to DPI holding relevant information.

For more information about the fees charged under the Act, please see the Fees Fact Sheet (PDF, 150.02 KB).

The completion and lodgement of record / return forms provide NSW DPI with key information about the animals that have been registered or permitted to be kept, including any changes that may have taken place such as births, deaths and the permanent identification details for each individual animal being kept. This allows the NSW DPI to better monitor and manage the ongoing biosecurity risks associated with the keeping of higher-risk non-native animals.

Record returns are due on 31 May each year.

Authorised officers appointed under the Act have a range of powers for investigating, monitoring and enforcing compliance with the legislation, and preventing, eliminating, minimising or managing biosecurity risks or suspected biosecurity risks associated with non-native animals.  Offences apply if you do not meet these obligations.

For more information see the Compliance page on the NSW DPI website.

Policies and procedures

Policies and procedures provide guidance on the way in which NSW DPI manages non-native animals. The following policies and procedures should be referred to before an application for a biosecurity registration or biosecurity permit is lodged with NSW DPI:

Codes of Practice

A number of Codes of Practice are available to provide guidance in best practice animal welfare and management of non-native animals. Several of these are available from the Animal Welfare Unit or CSIRO, such the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: The Camel.

Many ruminant animals, including blackbuck, can be infected with and spread Johne's disease (JD). Information on managing JD in livestock can be found on the Johne’s Disease (JD) in Cattle webpage.

Appeals process

Section 182 and section 360 of the Act allows a person aggrieved by any of the following decisions to appeal to the Land and Environment Court against the decision:

  • to refuse a biosecurity registration / permit,
  • to refuse to renew a biosecurity registration / permit,
  • to suspend or cancel a biosecurity registration / permit,
  • to refuse to revoke a suspension of a biosecurity registration / permit following the making of a submission by a registered entity / former permit holder, being a suspension of which the registered entity / permit holder was not given prior notice,
  • to impose any condition on a biosecurity registration / permit, or on the suspension or cancellation of a biosecurity registration / permit,
  • to vary a biosecurity registration / permit.

An appeal must be made in accordance with rules of court, but may not be made more than 28 days after the date of written notice of the decision is served on the person.

Contact us

To find out more about the Act and the Regulation please visit our Biosecurity legislation webpage.

If you’d like more information on the private keeping of non-native animals under registrations and permits:

If you’d like to report the sighting of a non-native animal being kept illegally or loose in the open environment, you should report the information to NSW DPI as soon as practicable and within 24 hours of becoming aware of the information. Information relating to non-native animal incursions can be reported to NSW DPI through the following channels: