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Topics > River Murray floods

Wildlife in floods

Position Statement: Wildlife Intervention


The Department for Environment and Water is responsible for administering the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (the NPW Act) and the Animal Welfare Act 1985 (AW Act). Although the department regulates interactions with protected animals under the NPW Act it does not ‘own’ them. Interactions with wildlife on private and public land are regulated through wildlife permits issued by the department under the NPW Act and National Parks and Wildlife (Wildlife) Regulations 2019. All interactions with animals must be done in accordance with the AW Act.

Keeping wildlife wild

The department aims to keep wildlife wild by limiting human interactions with native animals and avoiding activities that may impact on their welfare or behaviour.

Any interaction with an animal may have implications for the welfare of that animal. Some animals may experience stress responses that are triggered by human interventions that may cause suffering, or in some instances death. Even feeding wildlife can contribute to poor outcomes for individual animals or a population over time.

Wildlife interventions

To work towards keeping wildlife wild, the department will only consider intervening with wildlife for the purposes of:

  • Contributing to the conservation of a threatened species.
  • Reducing the suffering of an animal or group of animals.
  • Reducing impacts caused by native species.

The department does not generally support interventions with wildlife for animal welfare purposes where:

  • The risk is only possible, but not likely to be encountered by the animal.
  • The intervention itself increases the likelihood of harm.
  • The intervention jeopardises human safety.

In most instances, the department recognises that wild animals must exist in both urban and natural environments and will be subject to both human-caused and natural threats. The department permits the rescue of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. While department does not permit the release of all species back to wild, the general intention should be to care for that animal in a way that maximises the opportunity for its release. Where appropriate, euthanasia provides a humane outcome in response to harm caused by these threats.

The department will consider intervention with healthy wildlife where the animals are of a species listed on the threatened species schedules of the NPW Act, or recognised as being threatened in South Australia by the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and that intervention is well planned and likely to lead to a positive outcome for the species.

Human-caused threats

The department provides information and education to the community on ways to reduce human-caused threats to wildlife. This includes:

  • Promoting a ‘living with wildlife’ approach
  • Recommending that we don’t feed the wildlife
  • Driving carefully where wildlife may be present
  • Keeping dogs on leads in parks and reserves
  • Keeping cats indoors, particularly overnight
  • Increasing habitat for native species in urban environments, through native plantings and biodiversity sensitive urban design.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

The department recognises that although extreme weather occurs as part of our natural environment, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather is increasing due to anthropogenic climate change. Extreme weather may cause impacts to native animals at an individual level or across a population.

Where a natural disaster has, or is likely to have, a severe impact on wildlife, the department may consider options to mitigate the risks. Where safe to do so, the department permits the rescue of wildlife that is sick, injured or orphaned with the intention of being able to release that animal back to the wild. In some situations euthanising an individual or a group of animals that are or will experience extreme or prolonged suffering from natural events is undertaken as the most humane option. The department may also undertake, or permit others to undertake, additional interventions to assist a species recognised as threatened in South Australia when listed on the NPW Act or EPBC Act.

Why moving animals is not always suitable

Translocating or relocating (moving) animals to a new area is not always suitable. This is due to a number of reasons:

  • Animal welfare considerations for the animal that will likely experience stress during capture, movement and release.
  • Impacts on the receiving environment – it is hard to find a suitable location to release animals where:
    • they will be able to survive and aren’t at risk of predation
    • where there aren’t already animals that rely on that habitat for food, water or shelter
    • there aren’t any unintended consequences
  • The survival of an animal may not be likely if an animal is placed in a new environment or in unfamiliar territory.

What to do?

Where an animal is sick, injured or orphaned, the department encourages members of the public to contact:

  • the regional duty officer of the National Parks and Wildlife Service if in a National Park or other National Parks and Wildlife service managed reserve.
  • a wildlife rescue organisation if not in a park or reserve.

Wildlife rescue organisations who respond in a particular area are best found through a google search. The public should remember that wildlife rescue organisations are made up of volunteers who cannot always respond to calls for assistance.