Keeping Australian native wildlife as pets can be a most rewarding experience.
Keeping animals can enrich our lives. Whether they are furry, feathered, slippery, slimy, or scaly, our animals become a part of us. They become our family, and each come with their own unique traits and husbandry requirements.
The Mammal Society of NSW was established in 2018 with an understanding that keeping selected native mammals as pets makes sense. It is a rewarding, educational and worthwhile hobby for those willing to commit themselves to the best care and higher welfare.
Victorians, South Australians and the Northern Territorians have been successfully keeping marsupials and other native mammals for almost half a century. These native mammal keepers have contributed to our knowledge base and have been shown to have a better understanding of biodiversity and conservation.
In NSW there are currently 2 species of native mammals that can be kept by private keepers, the Spinifex Hopping Mouse and the Plains Mouse. NSW is lagging behind the other states. The Office of Environment & Heritage—the government body responsible for licensing native animal keeping – have held a policy against the keeping of marsupials and other native mammals. This policy was created with limited consultation from supporters of a licensed mammal keeping system.
It is time this out-dated and over-reaching policy is changed.
Because keeping native mammals brings with it some unique requirements the NSW government and animal welfare agencies have argued this makes them unsuitable as pets. ‘They are wild animals. You cannot tame a wild animal’.
This is very misleading, today native mammals, and other native animals already kept as pets are certainly not wild animals. They are captive native animals, which over time become more domesticated. They have been born and raised in captivity, and in the vast majority of species, their lifespans in captivity are much longer than those of their wild counterparts.
The keeping of native mammals in other Australian states requires a license, while some species are exempt and can be kept without a license. Under the conditions of your license NO wildlife may be taken from the wild, it must be obtained from a legal source, that is, a wildlife breeder, wildlife park or zoo. In species that survive as a colony, it is recommended and supported by breeders to only purchase or sell those species in pairs or trios – ensuring these species can feel safe and not stressed or lonely.
In NSW the keeping of other native animals is already regulated under a licensing system with the same restrictions as those mentioned above and therefore the keeping of native mammals should be no different.
Once a keeper learns the basics in keeping native mammals they find they are no more difficult to care for than a dog or cat, and just as with other domestic pets, not all are suitable for the suburban backyard or unit. Not everyone can own a koala or wombat or red kangaroo in their backyard. The idea is purely ridiculous.
Indeed native mammals have specific housing requirements, and these can come in many forms. Most already existing pet enclosures can be utilised or even slightly modified to keep native mammals. Even the opponents of mammal keeping within the wildlife caring sector utilise these enclosures, along with keepers in other States. In fact in NSW, smaller wildlife parks, animal exhibitors and others have been keeping mammals successfully for decades in these styles of enclosures.
An aviary can be used for possums, gliders and bettongs. A vivarium (well designed, fully functioned habitat) can be used for dunnarts and the many different native rodents, while a small fenced yard for wallabies and other small macropods, and a larger sized fenced paddock for kangaroos and wallaroos has been proven to be ample among existing native mammal keepers. Just as you wouldn’t keep a cockatoo in a canary cage, or a lace monitor in a fish tank, common sense tells us that animals such as wombats require extra consideration for housing and to maintain their longevity and robust living needs. No one in their right mind would keep a wombat or koala in a one bedroom unit and the Mammal Society of NSW does not condone such inappropriate keeping methods.
Most native mammal diets are easy to maintain, and today there are also many commercial dietary supplements that can be purchased to ensure the health of your native pet is maintained. Products such as those made by Wombaroo and others have been specially formulated to ensure they meet the nutritional requirements of all species of native mammals. These products are already available to the general public and are used by wildlife parks, zoos and wildlife carers across the nation.
Currently available species in NSW
Currently there are two species that can be kept in NSW – the Spinifex Hopping Mouse and Plains Mouse.
Below are our care sheets for these species. Our care sheets are purely designed as a guide to assist you in keeping your first native mammals in NSW.