Non-native animals

General information

Feral camel

Non-native or exotic animals are a feature of everyday life for many people. They include most of our pets, agricultural animals and a range of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals housed in zoos.

Many non-indigenous animals have established wild populations and have become pests of agriculture or the environment and some can threaten human health and safety.

Australia is committed internationally to the maintenance of biological diversity and the precautionary principle in this regard. The 1992 International Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Australia is a signatory, 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.

As a result the private keeping of many "controlled category" non-indigenous animals in NSW is regulated through the Non-Indigenous Animals Act 1987. These animals are listed in Schedule 1 of the Non-Indigenous Animals Regulation 2012. The Act's main purpose is to control and regulate the entry of certain non-indigenous animals into NSW and the movement and keeping of those animals within the State. The Act provides for categories of non-indigenous animals and establishes a licensing and movement permit scheme. The licensing system under the Act establishes a person's eligibility to keep non-indigenous animals, based on factors such as the character of the applicant and the premises where animals are to be kept. It authorises licence holders to keep certain animals and may impose conditions on their keeping, such as security and safety requirements to prevent the escape of animals.


Anyone wishing to keep controlled category non-indigenous animals in NSW must apply to the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) for a licence under Section 14 of the Non-Indigenous Animals Act 1987.

It is an offence to keep or be in charge of controlled category non-indigenous animals without a licence. This includes such species as camels, American bison, water buffalo, gazelles, squirrels and most zoo-type animals such as monkeys and other primates.

Licences are only issued to persons, corporations or incorporated associations. Licences are not issued to partnerships or business names.

The public exhibition of animals requires a licence to be issued under the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986. "Public exhibition" includes any animal display (or bird aviary) installed as an attraction at a premises and it includes display of domestic animals as well as non-indigenous animals. See the relevant information under Welfare of zoo, circus, exhibited & other animals.

See also

Licence and permit conditions

Licences are issued with general and specific conditions. Where specific conditions are applied to a licence they will appear only on that licence. The general conditions which are to be applied to licences are contained in the Biosecurity Regulation 2017 which should be referred to before applications for licences are submitted.

Movement permits also include some standard conditions. (PDF, 40.54 KB)

Annual returns

All licence holders in NSW are required to provide a return each year which contains information about the licensed animals they keep, including where the animals come from, or are disposed of to, and details of births and deaths.


Published policies show the way in which NSW DPI regulates non-indigenous animals. These should be referred to before applications for licences and permits are submitted.

Codes of Practice

A number of Codes of Practice are available to provide guidance in best practice animal welfare and management of some non-indigenous animals. Several of these are available from the Animal Welfare Unit.

Many ruminant animals, including American bison, buffalo and blackbuck, can be infected with and spread bovine Johne's disease (BJD) This disease should be considered when these animals are to be kept, especially if they are sourced from interstate.



Appeals process

The Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 allows an applicant or licence holder to appeal against any decision made in relation to an application, licence conditions or licence cancellation.


Invasive Plants and Animals Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Postal address:
Locked Bag 21
Orange NSW 2800

Street address:
161 Kite Street

Telephone: (02) 6391 3525 (Licensing Officer Invasive Species) or (02) 6391 3100


New Incursions

Report sightings

In order to reduce the impacts of invasive species, we appreciate the help of the public in reporting illegal keeping of exotic animals or sightings of unusual animals in the environment.

Complete the Report an unusual animal sighting form or;
Phone: 1800 680 244