The Conservation Regulator undertakes a range of activities to support compliance with the law. We use a balanced approach including education, compliance support and enforcement of the law.
We seek to identify priority risks and take regulatory action to prevent harm where possible. The regulatory approach taken by Conservation Regulator includes:
- Set standards that protect environmental, social and cultural values and provide clarity on regulatory obligations. This may include guidelines for the issue of permissions and welfare standards for captive wildlife.
- Inform and educate regulated entities and the community about the law and the rules that must be obeyed to comply with the law. This may include website content, brochures, and face to face interactions.
- Support compliance by assisting regulated entities and the community to understand how to comply with their obligations under the regulatory framework. This may include information on conditions given to permission holders, and engagement with industries known to impact on wildlife to ensure wildlife protection.
- Monitor compliance with the law including using community information and inspections and audits of licences, permits and authorities we have granted.
- Enforce the law by objectively and assertively requiring remedy for non-compliance with the regulatory framework, and where appropriate applying sanctions to deter future non-compliance. This may include fines, permissions cancellations, and prosecution where applicable
- Collaborate by working with regulated entities and the community to improve practices and influence future standards of practice. This includes partnering with co-regulators and agencies such as Crime Stoppers to share resources and facilitate information flow.
Regulating the use, possession, trade, treatment and control of wildlife is an identified priority regulatory risk as identified by the Conservation Regulator in our Regulatory Priorities 2020–2021. Risk prioritisation is based on the likelihood of the risk event occurring and the consequences or impacts on the state and region if the risk does occur.
The Conservation Regulator has recognised that regulating the use, possession, trade, treatment and control of wildlife is a regulatory priority to avoid illegal events or activities that could harm wildlife or wildlife welfare.
These identified harms include:
- the unauthorised destruction of or interference with wildlife, with a particular focus on wildlife threatened by extinction
- illegal destruction of wildlife habitat as included in the Wildlife Regulations 2013
- illegal possession and trade of wildlife, both local and international
- non-compliance with licence, permit or authority conditions leading to poor wildlife welfare outcomes.
Drivers of non-compliance
Non-compliance with legislation and the conditions of licences, permits and authorities may be driven by the following factors.
Lack of awareness of regulations
People who are unaware of the laws protecting wildlife may unwittingly breach those laws, potentially doing harm to wildlife or wildlife habitat. Examples of this could include interfering with bird nests, raising rescued orphaned animals without an authority, or taking wildlife such as skinks and geckos from their backyard to keep as pets.
The knowing or unknowing use of wildlife to illegally obtain a financial profit. For example, taking animals from the wild and selling them, or unauthorised marine mammal swim tours that may impact on the natural behaviours of animals. Economic gain is also a driver in situations where penalties for illegal activity are considered the cost of doing business; and where economic benefit or avoidance of economic loss intersect with protection of individual wildlife and localised populations, for example where illegal control occurs on agricultural land.
Conflicts between wildlife and human activities
This may occur when a protected species is locally abundant and/or develops habits that impact humans. For example: ducks grazing irrigated commercial crops; cockatoos and corellas damaging sporting grounds; and kangaroos damaging agricultural fences. In all these situations, the protection of the animal may be undermined by a person or organisation undertaking an illegal activity (knowingly or unknowingly) to manage economic, infrastructure or amenity loss. These activities may include harassment, destruction or injuring of native species in contravention of the law.
A lack of awareness, or disregard for, the harm non-compliance can cause to wildlife and to the environment
This occurs where people do harm to a species or habitat because they don’t understand the effects of their actions or because they deem their actions to be more important than wildlife and habitat protection. For example walking dogs on certain beaches disrupting shore-nesting birds, or boating at extreme speeds risking collision injuries with marine mammals such as dolphins, seals or whales.
Our key activities and intended outcomes
Our key commitments and activities are designed to both support compliance with the law; and to monitor and enforce the law and regulated permissions activities.
Supporting compliance with the law
- Raise awareness of the regulations and improve the protection, welfare, conservation and interaction with Victoria’s wildlife
- Publish information on how to apply for a licence, permit or authorisation on our website
- Deliver information and guidance to support a common understanding of how to comply with the law
- Support licence and permit holders in understanding their obligations to prevent non-compliance
- Publish information about our major operations and enforcement actions through a variety of channels, such as our websites and social media.
Monitoring and enforcing the law and permissions activities
- Administering permissions under the Wildlife Act 1975
- Reforming wildlife permissions, initially focusing on Authorities to Control Wildlife
- Monitoring compliance with licence and permit conditions
- Investigating and responding to wildlife crime, prioritising serious and significant incidents
- Patrols and surveillance.
The short-term (1–3 years) outcomes for these activities are anticipated to be:
- Increased community awareness and understanding of regulations
- Increased community engagement with field staff including proactive information sharing
- Increase in perception that people will be held accountable for illegal activities
- Increased collaboration between co-regulators
- Investigations, monitoring and patrols effectively identify and target high risk locations and activities
- Non-compliance is addressed with appropriate enforcement actions
- Immediate environmental harm is prevented through compliance activities.
Longer term outcomes, projected for the 3 to 5-year timeframe include:
- Community deterred from illegal activities on public land
- Increased compliance with relevant regulations and related licences
- Maintenance and improvement of suitable habitat and ecological values at high-risk locations on public land
- Protection of threatened and vulnerable species and habitat
- Use of permissions is risk-based, efficient, understood and trusted by the community, and consistently applied and monitored by DELWP staff.
These outcomes are expected to contribute to the overarching goal outcomes of the Conservation Regulator:
- Ensuring Victoria’s public land and its biodiversity are appropriately managed and protected from illegal human activity
- Improving wildlife welfare and habitat outcomes
- Encouraging Victorians to place more importance on a healthy environment and to contribute to environmental health.
What does success look like?
Wildlife regulation requires the management and consideration of inherent human–wildlife conflicts, opposing values across stakeholders, complex land tenure arrangements, demanding timeframes and the need to prioritise human and animal welfare.
The Conservation Regulator is committed to continuous improvement in how wildlife is regulated in Victoria.
The Conservation Regulator is working to achieve these goals:
- Significant reductions in the illegal keeping of, and trade in, Victorian wildlife.
- Support the perpetuation of vulnerable and endangered species by prioritising regulatory effort to protect them and their habitat.
- Ensure the Authority to Control Wildlife system is timely, consistent and transparent, providing for the humane management of over-abundant species or wildlife presenting risks to human health and infrastructure.
- Regulatory effort is focussed on areas of highest risk to sustainable and healthy wildlife populations.
- Community trusts the Conservation Regulator to protect Victorian wildlife within the current regulatory framework.
The Conservation Regulator is committed to reporting on its performance, to be transparent in operations and outcomes. The Conservation Regulator will publish a report as detailed in Annex 2 to provide an indication of performance and achievements in the previous year.
Reporting is intended to be meaningful, reflective of the key responsibilities of the Conservation Regulator and limited to information that is easily extracted from key business systems. This will provide a significant narrative about the work the Conservation Regulator achieves while ensuring the focus and effort of Conservation Regulator staff remains with addressing and preventing wildlife harms.
Our key regulatory tools
The Wildlife Act provides for various licences, permits and authorisations that allow for specific activities involving wildlife.
- Authorities to Control Wildlife (ATCW), a regulatory permission for landholders and land managers that allows control of wildlife( e.g.lethal control, disturbance or relocation) where the wildlife is damaging property, crops or pasture, or impacting human health and safety. ATCWs aim to balance wildlife welfare and protection with that of human safety, property and livelihood
- Licences authorising the keeping of wildlife in accordance with conditions that preserve wildlife health and welfare. These include Basic, Advanced and Dingo wildlife licences.
- Licences authorising wildlife-based businesses, including for: wildlife dealers, wildlife demonstrators, wildlife controllers, wildlife farmers, and permits to undertake commercial tours to observe whales and seals in the wild. These licences also stipulate conditions to preserve wildlife welfare.
- Wildlife Shelter or Wildlife Foster Care Authorisations enabling the care and rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
- Wildlife research permits
- Import and export permits, to protect against illegal wildlife trafficking and preserve our biosecurity.
The Conservation Regulator is responsible both for issuing these wildlife permits, and for ensuring that they are complied with. It is an offence under the Wildlife Act to breach the conditions of a permit, or to fail to have a permit for regulated activities.
The Conservation Regulator is committed to ongoing reforms to wildlife permissions, intended to increase clarity of use and application for applicants, provide improved guidance on complying with the law, ensure appropriate wildlife protection and welfare, and supporting consistent, transparent decision making.
An early priority for the Conservation Regulator has been a comprehensive review of the Authority to Control Wildlife permission framework.
- Better guidance material for applicants and the public to support compliance with the law and improve the efficiency of the application process;
- Transition to online application processes, significantly reducing the administrative burden of applying and improving timeliness;
- More consistent decision making, and a risk-based approach to inspections, through internal standards and procedures.
Responding to community reports
The Conservation Regulator responds to a range of wildlife crime ranging from breaches of licences, to wildlife cruelty, to illegal destruction and illegal trafficking of wildlife. The Conservation Regulator will apply its resources based on risk and urgency ensuring that priority resources are put to the most serious and significant wildlife incidents.
All community reports are subject to initial assessment, and verified non-compliance is ranked for priority action in accordance with the Conservation Regulator’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy. This policy recommends actions based on robust evidence that prioritise the reduction of harm to wildlife, persons and the environment.
Wildlife and Forest patrols
Proactive patrols of state forest and coastal areas are regularly conducted by Conservation Regulator officers, with the intention of providing education and guidance to the community on how to comply with relevant laws within the forest and coastal environment. During these patrols, officers are conscious of wildlife – human interactions and address wildlife crime where it is identified.
Seizure of wildlife
The Wildlife Act provides powers for the Conservation Regulator to intervene to seize wildlife in certain circumstances. Wildlife seizure may be undertaken for animal welfare reasons; evidentiary reasons, to support an enforcement action including prosecution; and to prevent the continuation of an offence.
In making decisions to intervene, we prioritise animal welfare, as well as considering the alleged or perceived level of criminality, biosecurity and public safety. We ensure that the intervention is proportionate and appropriate, considering the range of available actions like retention notices, infringements and the seizure of wildlife if necessary.
The Conservation Regulator is committed to animal welfare during and after seizure, and is developing protocols for the seizure, retention and disposal of seized wildlife that guide husbandry of wildlife in custody as well as principles regarding euthanasia for welfare and biosecurity purposes.