Review of ACT’s snake licensing arrangements and the resourcing of snake catching and education services

Review of ACT’s snake licensing arrangements and the resourcing of snake catching and education services
Residents of ACT
Sponsoring member:
Paterson, Marisa
Principal petitioner:
Dr Gavin Smith
No. of Signatures:
Posting Date:
Closing Date:
Referred to Minister:
Responded to:
Information about the Principal Petitioner is available through the sponsoring Member of the Legislative Assembly's office
TO: The Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly
Reason for this Petition

The following residents of the ACT draw the attention of the Assembly to:
a. Snakes are important wildlife in Canberra. Along with other native animals, they act as significant middle-order predators which balance local ecosystems. They have been present in the landscape for millions of years.
b. Snakes are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 2014, and it is an offence to kill, injure, or take snakes from the wild.
c. Snakes are stigmatised creatures, which means they are prone to being injured or attacked by people (and their pets) when contact occurs.
d. Education is an important part of ensuring that the ACT community can safely co-exist with snakes. Encounters with snakes are increasing as an outcome of urbanisation and loss/fragmentation of natural snake habitats.
e. Scientific research in the local region (part funded by the ACT Government) has found that wild eastern brown snakes have very high rates of injury and generally do not respond well to being relocated from their home ranges.
f. A recent survey of 1176 ACT and surrounds residents found that 40% have a fear of snakes, 90% thought snakes play an important role in the environment and 91% felt that snake catching and snake safety education in the Canberra region should be a public, not private, service. Because of our local geography and climate, snake movement activity is seasonal. This means a dedicated snake catching business in the bush capital is not viable. Currently, snake catchers in the ACT need to have other employment and thus cannot meet community demand and expectations.
g. Licensed snake researchers and handlers can run highly effective educational programs on snake behaviour, ecology and safety to reduce both the fear of snakes in the community, and the requirement to move them so frequently. However, the ability to run programs and snake handling training is hampered by existing snake licensing arrangements in the ACT. Other Australian jurisdictions, such as New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, have strict licencing arrangements which allow highly experienced individuals to keep venomous snakes and use them for educational and conservational purposes.
h. Currently, snakes need to be brought into the ACT from other jurisdictions for training purposes. This poses unnecessary animal welfare issues and biosecurity risks to our native snakes and to any captive ones where they are stored overnight.
i. The situation in the ACT is unworkable for our dedicated snake catchers, educators and conservationists, and needs to be addressed. Otherwise, evidence-based snake education for our community will diminish, and both people and snakes will be worse off.

Requested Actions

Your petitioners, therefore, request the Assembly to call on the ACT Government to:
1. Urgently review current licensing arrangements and identify a framework for those snake handlers suitably qualified to register ownership of venomous snakes for educational and training purposes in the ACT. This would be similar to the models operating in New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.
2. Consider making snake removal/handling work in the ACT salaried as a contracted public service (similar to the Northern Territory) that is focused on providing public education through school incursions and community events and improving public safety and conservation outcomes for snakes.