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Animal welfare

Respect for animal welfare is fundamental to how we operate and our mission to bring the bush back to good health.

We are committed to:

  • continuously expanding our knowledge of reserve conditions,
  • monitoring the welfare of animals and
  • assessing the impact of our actions.

It’s hard to know what animals are feeling so those working with animals assume they feel and experience pain much the way we do.

Our animal welfare policy and procedures look at the impacts of inaction as well as direct intervention and apply to all staff, contractors, volunteers and partners.

Long and short-term animal welfare, population health and ecosystem health are all considered before significant work such as fire management, erosion control, restoring waterways, weed spraying or pest control is undertaken.

A juvenile Thorny Devil at Eurardy Reserve. Photo Ben Parkhurst.
A juvenile Thorny Devil at Eurardy Reserve. Photo Ben Parkhurst.

Surveys and research

All science projects in which we’re involved comply with The Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, developed by The National Health and Medical Research Council. They're also approved by all relevant state and federal legislative bodies including for ethics permits and licenses.

The welfare of all animals in a survey area is considered for even non-invasive and minimal disturbance surveys, such as remote monitoring through drones.

Animals (including non-target animals) are treated humanely and activities only undertaken when the scientific or conservation outcome has been considered against effects on animal welfare.

Measuring a Dusky Hopping Mouse recorded at Boolcoomatta, SA. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Measuring a Dusky Hopping Mouse recorded at Boolcoomatta, SA. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Staff and contractors anticipate and take all reasonable steps to avoid or minimise pain and distress to animals, including:

  • choosing the most humane and effective survey methods
  • ensuring personnel are competent to avoid or minimise distress and injury
  • ensuring animals are monitored for evidence of pain or distress and equipment and trained staff are available to address any issues
  • limiting interactions with animals to the shortest practical time
  • preparing for and employing appropriate methods of euthanasia if needed; and
  • ensuring projects comply with all relevant laws and have all necessary permits.

Where researchers other than Bush Heritage staff or contractors want to undertake research involving animals, formal permission must be granted, and reports provided at key milestones.

Suffering animals

If an animal is seriously injured and suffering and there’s no alternative than for it to be euthanised, this is done quickly by the most appropriate means available. If there’s a chance to obtain expert assistance, the animal will be made as comfortable as possible until assistance can be obtained.

Population control

Introduced (non-native) species (such as cats, foxes, cane toads, goats, camels, wild pigs, etc.) often throw native ecosystems out of balance by out-competing natives for food or habitat, preying on natives that haven’t developed defenses, degrading the landscape and soil or carrying exotic diseases.

Where introduced animals are known to negatively impact the health of a reserve, and/or the welfare of native species, Bush Heritage may seek to humanely control/reduce their numbers.

Wild pigs at Fan Palm Reserve in the Queensland wet tropics. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.
Wild pigs at Fan Palm Reserve in the Queensland wet tropics. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.

At times, disrupted ecological processes can result in unsustainable increases in the population of some native animals (such as macropods). This can cause significant environmental degradation, mass mortality events for the species through starvation or disease and impact on the viability and welfare of other native species (through habitat destruction). Where numbers are demonstrably not sustainable, Bush Heritage may seek to manage populations to sustainable population densities.

Population controls are selected to achieve:

  • minimal panic, pain or distress,
  • reliable outcomes, whether for single animals or large numbers of animals,
  • minimal environmental impact.

Where contractors are used they have appropriate skills, permits and qualifications.

Welfare of domestic stock

If domestic animals are used as a conservation management tool (e.g. cattle to control invasive exotic grasses) they are treated humanely. Where they are not the property of Bush Heritage, the owners must commit to Bush Heritage’s animal welfare principles.

Reporting concerns

If you have any concerns about animal welfare practices on any of our reserves or partnerships, please contact [email protected]. Please include your name and preferred contact, association with Bush Heritage or the activity being undertaken, and a brief description of your concerns.

All concerns will be recorded, reviewed and followed up by the Executive Manager, Science & Conservation or their delegate. 


Legislative background

National Health and Medical Research Council
Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purpose.

Animal Ethics InfoLink

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Details on the animal welfare management of domestic stock and farm animals  

RSPCA Australia Knowledge Base

State and Territory legislation: Australian Capital Territory | New South Wales | Queensland | Northern Territory | South Australia | Victoria | Western Australia