Scientific exchange - Register as a scientific organisation

For non-commercial loan, donation or exchange of scientific specimens between Australian and overseas institutions

Registered scientific institutions may exchange certain specimens of CITES listed species and Australian native specimens (except for certain exempt specimens), provided it is part of an exchange of non-commercial scientific specimens.

Such scientific transfers do not require a formal export or import permit, but under this exemption must carry a label detailing specific information regarding the specimen(s).

This exemption for certain scientific specimens is designed to facilitate scientific study, including study into the conservation, management, identification, classification and taxonomy of species.

CITES listed specimens

Both the Australian and overseas scientific institutions must be registered with the CITES Management Authority in their country if they wish to exchange specimens derived from species listed under CITES.

Australian native specimens (except CITES specimens)

Both the Australian and overseas scientific institutions must be registered to participate in the scientific exchange system for Australian native species not listed under CITES.

Registered organisations for exchange of scientific specimens

Registered scientific organisations may exchange certain specimens of CITES listed species and regulated Australian native specimens without a permit, provided it is part of an exchange of registered non-commercial scientific specimens.

Organisations registered for exchange of CITES specimens

What is covered by this system?

The loan, donation or exchange of specimens must be done so without monetary compensation, and the specimens must be legally obtained.

Specimens that are covered: Specimens that are not covered:
herbarium specimens (e.g. dried or pressed plants and flowers) live animals
preserved, dried or embedded specimens (e.g. microscope slides or specimens preserved in alcohol, taxidermy specimens, or tanned skins) any specimens that are not first accessioned into the collection of a registered institution (e.g.: fresh blood, sera or semen samples, or specimens collected by field researchers)
frozen specimens (e.g. frozen tissue samples)  
live plant material (e.g. whole plants or specimens collected in the field)  
animal DNA derived from preserved, dried or embedded museum specimens or plant DNA derived from live plants, herbarium specimens or preserved, dried or embedded museum specimens  

How to register

Australian institutions

Registered institutions must meet the following standards:

  1. its collections of animal or plant specimens, and records of them, are permanently housed and professionally curated;
  2. its specimens are accessible to all qualified users, including those from other institutions;
  3. its accessions are properly recorded in a permanent catalogue;
  4. it keeps permanent records for loans and transfers of specimens to other institutions;
  5. it acquires specimens primarily for research that is to be reported in scientific publications;
  6. its specimens are prepared and collections are arranged in a way that ensures their utility;
  7. it keeps accurate data on specimen labels, permanent catalogues and other records;
  8. it acquires and keeps specimens in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which it operates;
  9. its specimens of species mentioned in Appendix I to CITES are permanently and centrally housed under its direct control, and managed in a way that prevents the use of the specimens for decoration, trophies or other purposes incompatible with the principles of CITES.

An institution which is already listed on the Index Herbariorum is accepted as having met these standards and can be added to the register on that basis for native, non-CITES specimens. In this instance the institution must indicate that it is listed on the Index Herbariorum when applying for registration.

Overseas institutions

For CITES registration, institutions should contact their country's CITES Management Authority.

If an overseas institution only plans to exchange non-CITES Australian native specimens and is not registered with their CITES Management Authority to exchange specimens that are listed on CITES, then that institution should register with the Department of the Environment, by following the same procedure as for Australian institutions.

Using the system (How to exchange)


When registration is approved, each Australian institution is issued with an official scientific exchange label template individually created for that institution. This template allows registered institutions to print their own labels as required. There are two versions of the templates - one for CITES specimens and one for Australian native non-CITES specimens. For export from Australia, the package containing the specimen must have a scientific exchange label attached which shows:

  • the scientific and common name of the specimen
  • the quantity and a short description of the specimen
  • the Australian institution's name and registration code number
  • the receiving institution's name and registration code number
  • the date on which the package was sealed
  • the name and signature of the person authorised to exchange specimens, and the designation or title of that person
  • and for a CITES specimen:
  • the Appendix to CITES in which the species is listed.

The scientific exchange label must be signed by a person authorised by the registered Australian institution to dispatch specimens.

The labels do not replace the requirement to affix the appropriate Customs Declaration forms supplied by Australia Post. In addition, all export requirements of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) must be met. Where the value of the consignment exceeds $2000 or a permit requirement applies, a formal export declaration must be lodged with the ACBPS. If the value is $2000 or less, and no permit requirement applies, a formal export declaration is not required. Clearance must also be obtained from the ACBPS for the import of goods into Australia. For details about these requirements contact the ACBPS office in your State capital or the head office at:

Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Contacts

Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
GPO Box 858
Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: 1300 363 263 (within Australia) or +61 2 6275 6666 (from outside Australia)


For import into Australia, CITES specimens must be accompanied by documentation issued or endorsed by the exporting country's CITES Management Authority complying with the CITES provisions for exchange of scientific specimens (Article VII.6 and Resolution Conf 11.15). The scientific exchange label is not required for the import of Australian native non-CITES listed specimens.

Keeping records

Registered institutions must maintain a record of all exchanges undertaken. These records must be made available to the Department of the Environment upon request.

Review/Revocation of Registration

A review of the register of scientific institutions will be conducted every 5 years to ensure that the information is up-to-date and that all institutions continue to meet the requirements of registration.

Institutions that no longer meet the requirements or that may have been exchanging specimens contrary to the requirements outlined above will be removed from the Register.

Previous system of labeling

Under the previous system of labeling packages for scientific exchange, institutions were able to create their own labels as long as they contained the information detailed under "Using the system (How to exchange)". As the new system is designed to reduce the seizure of exchange material and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has been made aware of the changes, the new labels should be used immediately to replace labels created by your institution.

Other research purposes

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 also provides for the issue of permits for the export and import of scientific specimens (including live animals) for research purposes.

Note: If a specimen does not meet all the criteria for scientific exchange, registered institutions must apply for a research permit