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Rescue and rehabilitation

General information

Many people find the experience of rehabilitating native wildlife rewarding, however it is time consuming and can be very expensive. If you are thinking about getting into wildlife care for the first time, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection recommends that you get in contact with your local volunteer wildlife care association. These organisations can be found in most major regional centres.

Caring for native wildlife takes a lot of experience. It is not like looking after a cat or a dog; native animals have special dietary requirements, need frequent veterinary care and strong commitment to rehabilitating the wildlife by the carer. Volunteer wildlife care associations provide non-financial support to members, advice about wildlife care and also provide a valuable opportunity to talk to other people interested in looking after native wildlife.

Some native animals need highly specialised care; koalas, echidna, platypus, raptors and reptiles are some examples of animals that require high levels of expertise and a degree of specialisation. Many of these species are also threatened and their survival is highly significant. Only people with extensive experience in the rehabilitation of these species will be able to get a rehabilitation permit for them.

If you intend to look after and rehabilitate protected native animals, you will need a rehabilitation permit. However people can rescue sick, injured or orphaned protected native animals without any type of licence of permit.

I don't have a permit: what can I do with sick or injured native wildlife
The first thing you should do, if you can do it safely, is try to catch the animal and calm it. Wild animals are not used to being handled and will be very frightened; shock will kill animals very quickly. Wild animals may behave erratically and may bite or scratch the handler, so you should avoid touching any animal if you don't have the proper skill or equipment. It is often helpful to place the animal in a dark place, such as in a cardboard box, in a quiet and warm area (but not in direct sunlight). For information on flying-foxes and the viruses they carry please visit Viruses hosted by flying-foxes.

It is best to take the animal directly to a veterinary surgeon or a wildlife carer. These people will assess the animal and determine what is the best course of action. If the animal is severely disfigured or injured, it is likely that it will be euthanased.

If the animal has a good chance of survival, you will need to make long-term arrangements for the animals care. If you don't have a permit to care for sick, injured or orphaned protected animals, you may:

  • take the animal to a place where you intend to provide short-term care for the animal and care for it until the animal can be placed with a licensed volunteer wildlife carer; or
  • take the animal to a veterinary surgeon or directly to a licensed volunteer wildlife carer for treatment and/or referral to another person who specialises in the care and rehabilitation of that species of animal. Many zoos also accept sick or injured native wildlife.

For most species of protected animals you must, within 72 hours, notify a conservation officer who is an officer of EHP that you have taken possession of the animal, unless you give it to a veterinary surgeon or licensed wildlife carer. The officer may tell you to:

  • give the animal directly to the officer or another EHP officer;
  • give the animal to a licensed wildlife carer;
  • release the animal; or
  • make application for a rehabilitation permit to care for, rehabilitate and release the animal.

If you rescue a sick or injured marine mammal or marine turtle please call the RSPCA Qld.

Some veterinary surgeons will treat sick or injured wild native animals for free, whereas other vets will only provide treatment on a fee for service basis.

Rehabilitation permit
A rehabilitation permit may only be issued to a person if the chief executive is of the belief that the applicant intends to rehabilitate and release the animal.

People who keep wildlife under a rehabilitation permit must keep the animal in a way that contributes, or is likely to contribute, to the animals release and survival in the wild. It is not appropriate, for example, to keep animals undergoing rehabilitation in company of domesticated cats or dogs, as this may remove the animal's natural fear of these animals and make it more likely to be injured in the wild.

The Code of Practice—Care of Sick, Injured or Orphaned Protected Animals in Queensland (PDF, 239K)* specifies some minimum standards of care for native animals. Any person who is thinking about becoming a wildlife care volunteer should read the code.

Some carers become emotionally attached to wildlife in their care. It is difficult to care for an animal for an extended period of time after which you have to release the animal back to the wild knowing that it may or may not survive. The object of rehabilitation is to care for the animal to the point in time where it's physical injury or illness does not unduly affect its chances of survival. There is no guarantee that all your work will lead to the successful release of an animal.

Carers must release animals to the wild once they are again able to live in the appropriate natural habitat.

You can read the legislation online by visiting the Office of Queensland Parliamentary Counsel website.

Permits and approvals

To apply for this type of permit, please contact the Permit and Licence Management unit before lodging an application.

The holder of a rehabilitation permit must keep the animal in a way that is likely to contribute to the animal's rehabilitation and eventual release to the wild. The Code of Practice—Care of Sick, Injured or Orphaned Protected Animals in Queensland (PDF, 239K)* contains further information about rehabilitation techniques and standards of care for wildlife.

The code of practice was produced to assist people authorised under the Nature Conservation (WIldlife Management) Regulation 2006 to care for orphaned, sick or injured protected animals.

Forms and fees

Please download an application form; contact Permit and Licence Management or email palm@ehp.qld.gov.au for assistance.

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Last updated
8 October 2013