Risk assessment

Risk assessment for the import and keeping of exotic vertebrates in Australia

At least 70 species of non-indigenous vertebrates have established wild populations in Australia and over 30 of these species are pests. In addition to posing a considerable threat to conservation values, the economic cost of these species is at least $700 million per year, mainly in lost agricultural production.

There is a risk that further environmental and agricultural impact will result from new exotic species becoming established in the wild. Therefore governments need to put systems in place to ensure that ‘high risk’ species – those that could readily establish and become pests in the wild – are not imported into Australia. This requires a scientific risk assessment process to objectively assess import applications as well as border management to ensure that species are not illegally or accidentally introduced.

The Bureau of Rural Sciences has developed and validated risk assessment models (Bomford 2003, 2006, 2008), which have been endorsed by the National Vertebrate Pests Committee and provide a robust system for screening potential imports or assessing exotic species already in Australia. The Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts uses these models for assessing the suitability of exotic animals for live import into Australia.

These 2008 models include updated risk assessment models for the introduction of birds and mammals, of freshwater fish, and of reptiles and amphibians to Australia. They also include new models for assessing the risk of establishment of birds and mammals to New Zealand (Bomford 2008).

The 2008 models for Australia have been recently tested by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food to assess the risks posed by 40 exotic vertebrates.

A national workshop was held by the IA CRC in February 2009 to review government risk assessment processes for the import and keeping of exotic animals in Australia. The workshop’s main aim was to produce recommendations for an improved system for regulating import and keeping, to ensure we are adequately protected from new vertebrate pest incursions. The workshop proceedings can be downloaded here.

Risk assessments and alerts


Last updated: February 24, 2015