Why you can't keep other native mammals as pets

For a long time, Australians have kept native birds, reptiles and frogs as pets. There are several reasons why this practice cannot be extended to the holding of native mammals - like quolls or sugar gliders - as pets in NSW.

Animal welfare concerns

The NPWS believes that animal welfare considerations are very important in the keeping of any animal as a pet. The housing and husbandry needs of many native mammals are not well understood by the general public. There are many issues to consider when assessing the suitability of a species as a pet. For example:

  • Some native mammals, particularly wallabies and kangaroos, are very prone to stress-related diseases. These diseases can be brought on by contact with humans, domestic pets (cats and dogs) and by human-generated noise or machinery movement.
  • Many species need large outdoor enclosures.
  • Most native mammals are nocturnal. Some, such as possums and gliders, can really only be kept in fully enclosed outdoor aviary-type enclosures.
  • Some carnivorous species, such as quolls, have a huge home range - not unlike feral cats. They also need to be kept in large enclosed cages.
  • Same-sex members of some species, such as quolls and antechinuses, cannot be housed together for much of the year. They will fight, often to the death.
  • Some animals, such as male wallabies and kangaroos, become aggressive on reaching sexual maturity. At these times, they can become quite dangerous to humans.
  • Native species have a very short life cycle of birth, breeding and death. They can become inbred quickly, so new animals with different genes need to be constantly introduced.
  • Most native mammal species do not domesticate well. They generally cannot be enjoyed in the same way as a dog or cat.

Conservation concerns

Some of the protected native mammal species that are available from other Australian states and territories, such as possums, gliders, wallabies, kangaroos, dunnarts and quolls, occur naturally in NSW. If the NPWS gave permission for these native species to be held as pets, we are concerned that there would be illegal trapping from local populations to support a growing local pet trade and interstate export.

What about species that are not naturally found in NSW? If these species escaped, or were intentionally released, they could cause potential conservation problems. Any species that is allowed to be kept privately in NSW should have minimal potential to become a threat to the state's native environments.

Trapping and illegal trade in protected and threatened native birds, reptiles and frogs already drains considerable NPWS resources in administration and law enforcement. A system that allows the keeping of a wide variety of native mammal species would create similar additional demands.

Page last updated: 29 April 2016