You may be able to obtain an Australian import or export permit for specimens for scientific research purposes where the object of the research is to:
- better understand or increase knowledge of the taxon
- conserve biodiversity
- maintain and/or improve human health.
You will only be granted a permit if you can demonstrate that you and/or your organisation can satisfy the following requirements:
- The research is done by a person or institution that has sufficient resources and appropriate qualifications.
- The researcher publishes, or makes available for inspection, the results of the research.
- If asked by the Minister, the researcher gives to the Minister written information about the progress and results of the research.
- During and after the research, the researcher does not allow the specimen, or progeny or products of the specimen, to be used primarily for commercial purposes.
- For research involving a live animal, the animal is held in a way that is known to result in minimal stress and risk of injury to the animal.
- In the case of research in which an animal is killed, the killing is done in a way that is generally accepted to minimise pain and suffering.
- The number of specimens to be imported or exported is appropriate to the needs of the research.
- If possible, the specimen comes from an animal bred in captivity or artificially propagated plant.
- For a specimen listed as a threatened species, the export is not inconsistent with any recovery plan for the species.
You will be asked for the following evidence to help address these conditions:
- A full precis of your research that states the purpose, methodology (including methods of dispatch for the specimens if they are killed as part of the research), specimen numbers.
- The ethical approval for the project.
- An academic resume or online profile.
- Any relevant approvals to collect specimen.
- Any other evidence necessary to prove legal source and the scientific relevance of the research
- If you are applying to export live mammals, reptiles, amphibians or birds, you will need to have your facility assessed to determine if it meets the animals’ behavioral and biological needs. You can read more on our facility assessments page.
Registered scientific institutions may exchange certain specimens of CITES listed species and Australian native specimens without a permit, provided it is part of an exchange of non-commercial scientific specimens. This exemption for certain scientific specimens is designed to facilitate scientific study, including study into the conservation, management, identification, classification and taxonomy of species. You can read more about the exemption and how to apply below.
You can check if your species is subject to CITES regulations by checking Species+.
What is covered by the scientific exchange 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)
|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
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 (this includes natives that are CITES-listed). If the specimen is an Australian native, both the Australian and overseas scientific institutions must be registered with the Australian Scientific Authority to participate in the scientific exchange system.
Registered institutions must meet the following standards:
- its collections of animal or plant specimens, and records of them, are permanently housed and professionally curated;
- its specimens are accessible to all qualified users, including those from other institutions;
- its accessions are properly recorded in a permanent catalogue;
- it keeps permanent records for loans and transfers of specimens to other institutions;
- it acquires specimens primarily for research that is to be reported in scientific publications;
- its specimens are prepared and collections are arranged in a way that ensures their utility;
- it keeps accurate data on specimen labels, permanent catalogues and other records;
- it acquires and keeps specimens in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which it operates;
- 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.
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, by following the same procedure as for Australian institutions.
Using the system
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
- quantity and a short description of the specimen
- Australian institution's name and registration code number
- receiving institution's name and registration code number
- date on which the package was sealed
- institution’s registration number for the specimen
- printed name and signature of the person authorised/registered 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/registered 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 Department of Home Affairs must be met. Where the value of the consignment exceeds $2000 or a permit requirement applies, a formal export declaration must be lodged. 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 Department of Home Affairs for the import of goods into 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.
Registered institutions must maintain a record of all exchanges undertaken. These records must be made available to the Department upon request.
Review/Revocation of Registration
A review of the register of scientific institutions may be conducted by the Department 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.
Register of Australian institutions registered to exchange Australian native and CITES specimens (Updated 6 February 2024) (PDF - 137.52 KB)
Register of Australian institutions registered to exchange Australian native and CITES specimens (Updated 6 February 2024) (DOCX - 82.05 KB)
Register of overseas organisations registered to exchange Australian native non-CITES specimens (Updated 6 February 2024) (PDF - 405.49 KB)
Register of overseas organisations registered to exchange Australian native non-CITES specimens (Updated 6 February 2024) (DOCX - 140.36 KB)
Further information on the CITES register for scientific exchange, and organisations registered for exchange is available at: CITES specimens.