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Australia has very strict rules relating to the international movement of wildlife and wildlife products, particularly for internationally endangered plants and animals that are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Australian Border Force and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the Department) strongly enforce these laws and may seize wildlife specimens suspected of being in breach of Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to ensure our international obligations are met and to ensure the protection of wildlife.

The Department seeks to proactively investigate and prosecute wildlife crime. This requires coordination across a number of government, non-government agencies and industry, both within Australia and internationally. We also recognise the role of education and awareness in reducing illegal wildlife trade and have undertaken targeted awareness-raising activities within Australia to reduce the supply and demand for illegally acquired specimens. 

The maximum penalty for Wildlife trade offences under the EPBC Act is 10 years imprisonment and $210,000 for individuals ($1,050,000.00 for corporations). While the maximum penalties are severe in nature, the Department recognises that many offences are inadvertent in nature.

A notice of seizure is issued when a specimen has, or is suspected of having, contravened Australia’s wildlife trade laws. A specimen is most commonly seized because it has been imported or exported without the necessary documentation.

The following application form is made under section 444C of the EPBC Act for the return of a seized specimen to its owner.

The application for return of a seized specimen must be made by the owner of the specimen, or his or her authorised representative. If the owner is an individual, the application form will ask for the owner’s name, contact details and other personal information.

The application must be made within 30 days of the seizure or after the Notice of Seizure was issued. Applications made after this time may be refused.

The Secretary, or delegate, will determine whether the specimen can be returned to you, and may impose conditions on the return of the specimen. Refer to section 449BA(b) of the EPBC Act for further details.