Reptile policy

This page incorporates the Environment and Recreation's Policy on collecting, keeping and trading in snakes - Ref: 88/11741. The purpose of this document is to establish a policy against which licence applications for activities involving reptiles in the ACT may be assessed.


Reptile Policy

1. Introduction

1.1 All species of reptiles are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1980, except for a small list of EXEMPT species which are declared PROTECTED animal wildlife under section 17(1)(d) of the Act. Those listed as exempt species include the Long-necked turtle, the Eastern blue-tongued lizard and the Blotched-blue tongued Lizard. Reptiles, whether exempt species or not, may not be taken from the wild in the ACT without a licence.

1.2 Reptiles currently kept in the ACT fall into three categories:

Those kept for hobby purposes including:

  • Exempt species;
  • Shingleback lizards;
  • Eastern water dragons; and
  • Diamond, Carpet and Water pythons.

Those kept for scientific purposes including:

  • Snakes;
  • Lizards; and
  • Turtles.

Those kept for educational purposes including:

  • Snakes;
  • Lizards; and
  • Turtles.

1.3 The purpose of this policy is to:

  • establish guidelines for assessing applications for licences involving reptiles;
  • to clarify the position of Conservation officers involved with reptiles in the performance of their duties; and
  • to categorise reptiles into groups specific to appropriate activities.

1.4 As guidelines, this document is a guide to support decisions made under the Nature Conservation Act 1980 in relation to activities involving reptiles in the ACT. Such guidelines are not binding rules and should be applied in an ethical and unprejudiced manner.

2. Policy


2.1 When assessing an application to KEEP a reptile the following matters should be considered:

  • The conservation status of the reptile in the wild e.g. rare, endangered, restricted, threatened, etc.
  • The source of the reptile - that it is captive bred and has not been obtained in breach of any State or Territory legislation.
  • The suitability of the reptile for captivity including whether the reptile is venomous or poses a danger to the keeper or the general public, the adult size of the reptile, its captive diet and its ability to escape from enclosures.
  • The expertise/qualifications of the applicant in relation to the husbandry requirements of the reptile. This experience should be supported by evidence of previous keeping. Applicants may nominate referees or be interviewed by a Conservation Officer to demonstrate the necessary knowledge.
  • The suitability of the housing facilities to be provided.
  • The suitability of the location at which the reptile will be kept.
  • The effect any escaped or released individuals of the species may have on existing species or ecosystems in the ACT or Jervis Bay Territory.
  • The purpose for keeping the reptile - any possible breeding programs must be documented for approval by the Conservator and consideration given to the potential impact of such a program on wild populations.

2.2 All Licences to keep reptiles will be subject to special conditions. Under normal circumstances licences will not be issued for the keeping of reptiles under the following circumstances:

  • where the keeping of the reptile is for "novelty" value only e.g. as a team mascot, where the 'role' of the animal will subject it to undue stress;
  • where the keeping of venomous snakes is for any purpose other than scientific study; and
  • where the reptile to be kept has been illegally taken from the wild.

2.3 Licences to TAKE non venomous reptiles from the wild are granted for scientific or educational purposes only. Venomous reptiles should only be taken from the wild for scientific purposes. When practicable these animals will be released at the capture site at the completion of the scientific study or educational exercise or surrendered to Environment and Recreation.

Currently, suitably experienced members of the ACT Herpetological Association are permitted to take locally occurring, non venomous reptiles from the wild for the purpose of study at Association meetings. As a condition of their licence animals are released at the site of capture within 72 hours and records of take and release must be kept.

2.4 Licences to IMPORT venomous snakes will be granted for scientific/educational purposes only.

Applicants who wish to import reptiles into the ACT must be able to provide details of the relevant State or Territory authority under which the reptiles were previously held and the authority to export.

2.5 The SALE or TRADE of reptiles in the ACT is restricted to the following circumstances:

  • exempt species may be sold or traded without a licence;
  • hobbyists may dispose of excess holdings to other herpetologists or scientific and educational institutions with the prior written consent of the Conservator;
  • scientific and educational institutions may sell or trade reptiles with other recognised institutions meeting other State or Territory requirements. Appropriate licences must be obtained. Institutions may not dispose of specimens or their progeny to private hobbyists; and
  • individuals carrying out scientific study may not dispose of specimens or their progeny to private hobbyists.

2.6 As a general rule reptiles shall not be traded through commercial outlets in the ACT including pet shops.

2.7 Reptiles delivered to the ACT Parks and Conservation Service are not available for private collections. The keeping and disposal of these animals should be considered in the following order of priority.

Live Reptiles

  • Release to the wild where appropriate.
  • Scientific use at an approved institution.
  • Educational use by qualified conservation officers.

Dead Reptiles

  1. Scientific/educational use at approved institutions.
  2. Freeze-dried specimens for Environment and Recreation displays.
  3. Disposal.

NOTE: The above priorities are dependent on details of the origin of the animal, the species and the quality of the specimen.

2.7 All licences issued under the Nature Conservation Act 1980 for activities involving reptiles will be subject to conditions set by the Conservator of Flora and Fauna.

3. Conservation Officers

3.1 Conservation officers, while in the performance of their work, are exempt under the Nature Conservation Act 1980 from a number of provisions including "take", "kill" and "keep". They should not be involved in activities which could be seen to be in conflict with the administration of legislation and the objectives of Environment and Recreation, or where public perception may be that Conservation officers are above the law.

Officers in the Resource Protection Unit are required not to be involved in the trading of animals or the keeping of extensive collections of wildlife. The monitoring and enforcement of such activities forms a major part of the unit's work and there should be no possibility of conflict of interest in undertaking these tasks.

3.2 To avoid any possible misinterpretation concerning adherence to this policy, Conservation officers who keep animals at their private address, whether for work purposes or a private collection, must hold a licence to keep under the Nature Conservation Act 1980. All importing and exporting of animals by Environment and Recreation will require relevant licences.

3.3 Private collections held by Conservation Officers will be subject to the following conditions on their licence to keep:

  • The acquisition of additional animals is subject to the approval of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna.
  • The animals are not to be sold, traded or otherwise disposed of without prior approval of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna.
  • The fate of animals held by Conservation Officers on behalf of the Service shall be decided by the Conservator upon the resignation of the said Officer.

4. Categories of Reptiles

4.1 Australian reptile fauna comprises some 630 species which, for the purpose of assessing licence applications, have been categorised into three major groups - Hobbyist Species, Educational Species and Species for Scientific study.

Species of reptiles considered suitable for keeping for hobby purposes have been further categorised into the following lists:

Hobbyist Species

CATEGORY A refers to captive-bred reptiles that can be kept by individuals with no prior experience in keeping such animals. These include exempt species and species considered relatively easy to maintain, regularly bred in captivity and suited to the Canberra climate. Exempt species do not require a licence to keep under the Act and are identified below (E).

Category A

Common name Scientific name
Agamidae Bearded Dragon Pogona barbatus (E)
Blotched Blue-tongued Lizard Tiliqua nigrolutea (E)
Chelidae Common long-necked Turtle Chelodina longicollis (E)
Scincidae Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard Tiliqua scincoides (E)
Shingleback Lizard Trachydosaurus rugosus (E)

CATEGORY B includes species of captive-bred reptiles which may be held for hobby purposes by experienced amateurs with at least two years experience in keeping one or more species from a family in Category A. Generally applicants for species on this list must be 15 years of age or over

Category B

Common name Scientific name
Agamidae Tree Dragon (Jacky Lizard) Amphibolurus muricatus
Black Rock Skink Egernia saxatilis
Black-headed Monitor Varanus tristis
Boidae Childrens Python Liasis childreni
Carpet Python Morelia spilota ssp variegata
Chelidae Murray Turtle Emydura macquarii
Cunningham's Skink Egernia cunninghami
Delicate Skink Lampropholis delicata
Diamond Python Morelia spilota ssp.spilota
Gippsland Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii howitti
Mountain Dragon Amphibolurus diemensis
Mountain Water Skink Sphenomorphus tympanum
Scincidae Common Grass Skink Lampropholis guichenoti
Southern Water Skink Sphenomorphus heatwolei
Spotted Python Liasis maculosis
Stimson's Python Liasis stimsoni
Varanidae Ridge-tailed Monitor Varanus acanthurus
Whites Skink Egernia whitii

CATEGORY C refers to captive-bred reptiles suitable for keeping for hobby purposes for highly experienced herpetologists. Applicants must have at least one years experience with keeping Category B species and two years experience at keeping Category A species.

Category C

Common name Scientific name
Agamidae Eastern Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii
Black-headed Scaly Foot Pygopus nigreceps
Boidae Black-headed Python Aspidites melanocephalus
Bredl's Python Morelia bredli
Centralian Blue-tongue Lizard Tiliqua multifasciata
Chelidae Broad-shelled River Turtle Chelodina expansa
Colubridae Keelback Styporhynchus mairii
Common Tree Snake Dendrelaphis punctulatus
Gekkonidae Prickly Gecko Heteronotia binoei
Gould's Monitor (Sand Monitor) Varanus gouldii
Inornate Legless Lizard Delma inornata
Land Mullet Egernia major
Marbled Gecko Phyllodactylus marmoratus
Olive Python Liasis olivaceus
Pink Tongued Skink Tiliqua gerrardii
Pygopodidae Common Scaly Foot Pygopus lepidopodus
Robust Velvet Gecko Oedura robusta
Scincidae Eastern Water Skink Sphenomorphus quoyii
Slaty-grey Snake Stegonotus cucullatus
Southern leaf-tailed Gecko Phyllurus platurus
Stone Gecko Diplodactylus vittatus
Thick-tailed Gecko Underwoodisaurua milii
Tree Skink Egernia striolta
Tryon's Velvet Gecko Oedura tryoni
Varanidae Spotted Tree Monitor Varanus scalaris
Water Python Liasis fuscus
Western Blue-tongue Lizard Tiliqua occipitalis
Woma Aspidites ramsayi

Educational Species

These lists will be reviewed annually and modified according to any change in conservation status, availability and other State and Territory regulations.

4.2 Species of reptiles that may be kept for educational purposes include hobbyist species; locally occurring, non venomous species under no conservation threat; and species commonly kept in captivity for educational or display purposes. These animals should only be displayed with the approval of the relevant authority (e.g. ACT Schools Authority).

Any reptiles kept for public display must be kept according to the Public Display of Animals Policy and their keeping must comply with the Nature Conservation Act 1980 and the Animal Welfare Act 1991.

Scientific Species

4.3 Reptiles kept for scientific purposes must be kept at approved institutions or, if kept by private individuals at private residences, must be kept under a scientific project approved by the Conservator of Flora and Fauna.

All reptiles must be kept in line with the Institution's Ethics Committee's requirements and must not be in breach of any ACT legislation.

The offspring of reptiles kept for Scientific study cannot be disposed of without prior consent of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna.

5. Special Protection Status

5.1 Such animals include migratory animals that are subject to a Commonwealth convention, treaty or agreement, and species vulnerable to or threatened with extinction. Under normal circumstances licences to keep reptiles belonging to this category will not be issued unless the Conservator determines that the activity enhances the protection of the animal.

6. Hybridization

6.1 The deliberate cross-breeding (hybridization) of captive reptile species and subspecies is not considered to be a desirable aim for the management of captive reptiles. In order to prevent possible genetic contamination of captive and wild population, species or subspecies capable of hybridizing must be housed separately.

7. Conclusion

This Policy has been produced by the Wildlife Research and Resource Protection Units of Environment and Recreation. We acknowledge the assistance of members of the ACT Herpetological Association, Mr Richard Longmore, Councillor with the Australian Society of Herpetologists Incorporated, Mr Robert Jenkins, Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and the encouragement from Dr Rick Shine, Zoology Department, University of Sydney.