Wildlife carers will now have to be registered and pay a licencing fee after regulation changes came into effect on January 1.
The move to regulate the industry has been welcomed by leading South West carers, but some disagree with the decision to charge volunteers and not-for-profits for the licence.
Now, people who possess native fauna for the purpose of rehabilitation for more than 72 hours require a fauna possessing licence.
A new application and licence costs $250, with a renewal set to cost $110.
Inspection fees may also apply in situations where the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions needs to assess facilities in which rehabilitated animals are being kept.
Significant penalties apply for possessing native fauna without a licence unless otherwise authorised.
Fauna For The Future founding director Darren Darch and FAWNA wildlife rescue president Suzi Strapp understand the need for greater governance of the industry.
Mr Darch estimates in 2018 he spent $17,000 caring for native wildlife in the South West.
He also established Fauna For The Future in Geraldton in the state’s Mid West where he said the amount spent on care and rehabilitation had been upwards of $30,000 in previous years.
He is against there being a cost to the licence.
“I’m not opposed to the licence, I am opposed to the fee,” he told the Mail.
“I understand that there are rogues, and the Department want to find them, but how many $250 fees from good people is that going to take?
“From our perspective, they are not our animals, we do it for the love and we do it daily, they are ultimately crown animals. Can you imagine in another circumstance if you were looking after someone’s animals and they asked to be compensated?”
A Department spokesperson said the DBCA established a working group to facilitate consultation on whether licences should be introduced and if so, whether a fee should apply.
“Membership of this group was determined following a public call for nominations and membership includes wildlife rehabilitators,” they said.
“This group met a number of times during 2018 and determined that licences should be implemented for wildlife rehabilitators and that a fee should be applied in order to achieve high quality animal welfare outcomes for fauna that is taken into care.
“Generally, government agencies are required to recover the costs of issuing licences. The licence fees prescribed in the Biodiversity Regulations 2018 are calculated on the basis of cost recovery. The licence fee would assist in covering the cost of the department assessing that animal welfare will be appropriately managed by licence holders and of issuing the licence.”
The spokesperson said the fee would not be introduced for the first 12 months and during this time the DBCA would undertake further consultation with the wildlife rehabilitation community.
“Given the extremely valuable service wildlife rehabilitators provide, DBCA will review the appropriateness of the fee,” they said.
”The department will continue to provide support in the form of training and management advice to assist the groups.”
Mr Darch acknowledged the regulations were a step in the right direction.
He said he was relieved to hear the DBCA would waive the fee in 2019 and do further consultation.
Ms Strapp applauded the changes, and said they’d been on the cards for some time.
As FAWNA is a not-for-profit group, the organisation faces a reduced fee compared to that of the independent carers.
The licence fee for a not-for-profit organisation is $120.
“These regulations encourage carers to become members of organised groups, with boards and standards of care, so that people can be supported, trained, and comply to minimum basic care standards for wildlife with correct knowledge about coordinated releases. We are stronger together,” Ms Strapp said.
“This decision has been made to achieve the best outcome for wildlife, not for the independent carers.
“Up until this point, any Australian could care for a sick or injured animal, without any qualification and they didn’t have to tell anyone.”
Ms Strapp said she was aware of examples of people living in public housing with fully grown kangaroos in the living room, and others that were releasing possums in the peak of summer.
She said these were the sort of behaviours the regulations would curtail.
“There is no doubt these people love the animals, and don’t mean to hurt them, but not to release an animal is wildlife abuse,” she said.
“I hate the thought of people saying ‘they are asking volunteers to pay to volunteer’, that’s the wrong message. We love volunteers, their generosity and care is a gift, but there are not enough resources from the DBCA to cover all individual people and unfortunately there are some really bad examples of what people in community have done.
“It’s not perfect, there are lots of things that need to be ironed out but it is very much a positive step in right direction.”
To achieve a licence, applicants will need to meet a criteria set by the DBCA.
The DBCA is currently developing a code of practice that will outline the principles and standards for wildlife rehabilitation.
The code of practice will provide information on the care and welfare of injured or abandoned native animals and set out standards for procedures, hygiene and housing of wildlife under rehabilitation.
The code of practice is being designed to help increase the number of rehabilitated wildlife that is successfully returned to the wild. All rehabilitators will be required to abide by the code of practice.
Ms Strapp believed the uniformed criteria for all wildlife carers would result in better outcomes for native animals and make it easier for the DBCA to monitor the animals well-being.
“The thing with this is, it is more like a drivers licence, carers will have to prove they are capable, have the support and facilities to care, it’s not just like a fishing licence that you pay and then go off and fish,” she said.
“It will allow the DBCA officers to actually enforce the law, there is nothing they could do before, you could treat an animal poorly in care, and get another one the next day, no one would know.”
Mr Darch has worked alongside FAWNA for many years, with the organisation seeking his assistance for rehabilitation and relocating animals.
Recently, prior to the regulation changes, he made the decision to make their working relationship official and become a member of FAWNA.
Ms Strapp said she hoped the new regulations would result in wildlife carers uniting and sharing their skills.
“Carers often have their own specialised set of skills, or a specialised qualification for certain animals whether it be possums, kangaroos or reptiles,” she said.
“The more people involved in an organisation just means a more vibrant and multi-faceted group.”
- The Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2018 can be accessed via legislation.wa.gov.au.
- If a native animal is trapped or otherwise in immediate danger but is unharmed, you may capture it and release it in the immediate vicinity without needing a licence or other form of approval.
- If you find an injured or abandoned animal and you require advice, contact the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.
- An application for licences can be made by contacting DBCA’s Wildlife Licensing Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.