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Animal observation activities

The term 'observational' means different things to different people. Some activities that people call observational require registration with Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), and approval from an animal ethics committee (AEC), while others do not.

All activities that use animals for scientific purposes in Queensland must be approved by an AEC. In particular, any activity that involves trapping or handling wildlife or abnormal disruption of habitat requires AEC approval.

Any activity that, in itself, does not use animals in a scientific discipline does not require AEC approval to comply with the law in Queensland.

Activities for which registration and approval are not required in Queensland

Registration as a user of animals for scientific purposes with Biosecurity Queensland and approval from an AEC are not required for the following activities, but only if these activities do not involve abnormal disruption of habitat:

  • observing visually, not including spotlighting (e.g. bird watching and whale watching from a public beach using the naked eye or binoculars)
  • recording observations, note taking
  • making photographic, sound or digital recordings
  • collecting faeces (scats) and shed feathers. Note: Although the collection of animal scats and feathers from beside a track in a national park may not require AEC approval by law in Queensland, such an activity may be a breach of the Nature Conservation Act 1992.
  • searching for and recording animal tracks
  • recording animal tracks through the use of shallow sand pans
  • causing no abnormal disruption of habitat (e.g. walking, remaining or driving in places to which people typically have those types of access such as public or national parks, tracks, roadsides and farmland).

If any abnormal disruption of habitat is caused through these or any other activities, registration and approval are required.

Activities that 'use' animals for which registration and approval are required in Queensland

Registration as a user of animals for scientific purposes with Biosecurity Queensland and approval from an AEC are required for the following activities:

  • conducting an activity for scientific purposes in which a person causes or permits an animal to be acquired, bred, cared for, disposed of or otherwise used
  • spotlighting or using light sources more powerful than a domestic torch for the purposes of visual observation to collect scientific data (as opposed to hunting)
  • trapping of animals (including fish) (Elliot, pitfall, cage traps, nets etc.)
  • using call playback to stimulate responses by animals
  • using hair tubes to detect the presence of animals
  • identifying animals by means of marking or placing on or in the animal any form of identifying mark or object (e.g. includes paint or other external marker, microchipping, trimming hair, banding and tagging, toe clipping, ear punching)
  • disrupting habitat abnormally (e.g. turning over logs, entering or remaining in places that people do not normally access such as virgin forest, protected ecosystems, bird rookeries, collecting animals signs such as scats, feathers)
  • conducting reptile and amphibian surveys where lizards and frogs are caught by hand, examined and released.

AEC requirements for activities that 'involve' or 'interact' with animals

Although the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 limits the requirement of obtaining AEC approval to those activities that 'use' animals for a scientific purpose, some funding bodies and institutions require AEC approval for activities that 'involve' or 'interact' with animals without 'using' them in order to meet funding body requirements or to comply with institutional policy.

Anyone who is not sure if their activity requires AEC approval should check with their AEC. They can advise whether AEC approval is required either to comply with the law, funding body agreements or with the policies of the registered institution. An AEC may seek clarification about legal requirements from Biosecurity Queensland.

For anyone who does not have access to an AEC, Biosecurity Queensland can provide advice on contacting an appropriate AEC. Contact the DAF Customer Service Centre and ask for the Biosecurity Queensland Animal Ethics Policy unit.