Notice of seizure

A Notice of Seizure is issued when a specimen is, or is suspected of being, derived from a species listed on the CITES list.

The notice application is on the back of the grey copy of the notice of seizure.

Applying for return of a seized item

If your item has been seized, you may apply to the Secretary of the Australian Government environment department for release of the item, by filling out the application for release at the back of the grey Notice of Seizure, which would have been given to you at the time of seizure. The completed application must be returned to the department within 30 days of the date of seizure.

The application, and supporting documents, may be faxed to the number on the application form.

Please note that a faxed copy of your application and supporting documentation is sufficient - you do not have to send the original by post.

Processing applications for release of an item

A letter is sent to the applicant acknowledging that an application has been received and lodged for processing.

If additional information is needed to complete the assessment of the application an officer from the International Wildlife Trade Section will contact the applicant.

When the assessment has been finalised a letter will be sent to the owner of the item advising them of the outcome.

All inquiries concerning the status of an application should be directed to:

The Director
International Wildlife Trade
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6274 2274 or (02) 6274 2275
Email: wildlife.seizures@environment.gov.au

Return to country of export

If your item has been seized, you may apply to the department to return it to the country of export.  This may only occur:

  • if the specimen was legally exported (that is, you have a valid export permit)
  • if the country of export agrees, in writing, to accept the return of the specimen
  • if you agree to meet all costs of the return, and
  • had the owner applied to the department for a permit to import the specimen into Australia, the permit would not have been granted.

Court action

You may take legal action against the Commonwealth for the release of the specimen on the grounds that the specimen was not involved in an offence against Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.  You must do this within 30 days of the seizure.

Immediate disposal

An item may be immediately destroyed if it is considered reasonably likely to:

  • constitute a serious threat to the environment
  • constitute a serious threat to the continued existence in the wild of any species of animal or plant
  • result in the introduction of an alien (non-native) species that represents a threat to ecosystems, habitats or other species
  • constitute a danger to public health
  • constitute a significant threat to the health of the seized specimen (in the case of a live specimen), or
  • result in the animal suffering (in the case of a live specimen).

Forfeiture of items

Items can become the property of the Australian Government. Common reasons include:

  • the owner of the item is unable to produce the appropriate export and import documents
  • the owner can not produce a pre-CITES certificate (evidence that the item was taken from the wild before its listing on CITES)
  • the owner does not complete an application for the release of the item or apply to the federal court for return of the item or apply for re-consignment of the item
  • the owner agrees to transfer ownership of the item to the Commonwealth, or
  • the item is considered to be a threat to the environment or to human health and is identified for immediate disposal.

Handling of live forfeited exotic specimens

The department has a strict policy in place for the handling of live forfeited exotic specimens. This policy takes into account certain principles such as:

  • the protection of Australian biodiversity
  • conservation of endangered species through research, breeding or education
  • ensuring that illegal trade is not further stimulated
  • the welfare of specimens
  • the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and
  • the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The policy also takes into account legal obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The policy outlines three options for handling forfeited specimens. These are:

  • housing specimens within Australia at accredited institutions i.e. members of the Zoo and Aquarium Association
  • re-exporting specimens to an appropriate facility outside of Australia, or
  • humane euthanasia.

An unfortunate consequence of illegal wildlife smuggling may be the euthanasia of a specimen. This is not something that is taken lightly by the department. However, if a suitable facility is not available and re-exportation is not viable then the option of humane euthanasia must be considered. Any euthanasia is carried out in a humane manner by a qualified veterinarian.

  • For more information about seizures or caution notices contact:

    The Director
    International Wildlife Trade
    Department of the Environment
    GPO Box 787
    Canberra ACT 2601
    Telephone: (02) 6274 2274 or (02) 6274 2275
    Email: wildlife.seizures@environment.gov.au