Can You Buy a Tortoise in Australia? A Guide to the Legalities and Considerations

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Tortoises are fascinating creatures that many people consider keeping as pets. However, before purchasing a tortoise, it’s essential to understand the legalities surrounding its ownership. The laws around keeping a tortoise as a pet can be pretty complex in Australia.

While owning a tortoise in Australia is legal, strict regulations are in place to ensure their welfare.

The Australian government has implemented laws to protect native wildlife, and as such, there are restrictions on importing and selling certain tortoise species.

It’s important to note that purchasing a tortoise from an unlicensed seller can result in fines or even imprisonment.

If you’re considering purchasing a tortoise in Australia, it’s essential to research and ensure that you’re buying from a reputable and licensed seller.

Additionally, it’s essential to understand the specific requirements for the tortoise species you’re interested in, as they can vary significantly in care and habitat needs.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you’re providing a safe and healthy home for your new pet tortoise.


Laws and Regulations

Importing Tortoises


Australia has strict laws and regulations when it comes to importing tortoises. The importation of tortoises is prohibited unless a permit has been obtained from the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment.

The permit is only granted if the tortoise is imported for scientific, research, or educational purposes.

The permit holder must also comply with strict conditions, including providing adequate housing, feeding, and veterinary care.


State Laws


In addition to federal laws, each state and territory in Australia has its laws and regulations regarding the keeping of tortoises.

For example, in New South Wales, keeping any species of tortoise as a pet without a license is illegal. The license is only granted to those who demonstrate that they have the necessary knowledge and experience to care for the tortoise properly.

In Victoria, the keeping of tortoises is regulated by the Domestic Animals Act 1994.

The act requires that all tortoises be microchipped, and their owners must keep a record of their movements and any ownership changes.

Tortoises are also subject to regular health and welfare checks by authorized officers.

Researching and understanding the laws and regulations in your state or territory is essential before considering keeping a tortoise as a pet. Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines or imprisonment.


Types of Tortoises Available

Native Species


Australia has several species of native tortoises, including the Eastern Long-necked Turtle, the Murray River Turtle, and the Broad-shelled Turtle.

These tortoises can be found in the wild and are protected under Australian law. It is illegal to capture or keep them as pets without a permit.


Non-Native Species


Several non-native species of tortoises are available in Australia, including the Red-footed Tortoise, the Yellow-footed Tortoise, and the Hermann’s Tortoise.

These tortoises are not native to Australia and are often imported from other countries. It is legal to keep them as pets, but owners must ensure that they are not released into the wild.

When considering purchasing a non-native tortoise, it is essential to research the specific species to ensure it suits the Australian climate and environment.

Some non-native species may require special care, such as heating lamps or specific diets.

Purchasing tortoises from reputable breeders or pet stores is also essential to ensure they are healthy and have not been illegally imported. Importing tortoises without the proper permits is illegal and can harm both the tortoises and the environment.

While it is legal to purchase non-native tortoises in Australia, ensuring they are obtained legally and suitable for the Australian climate and environment is essential.


Where to Buy Tortoises


When it comes to buying a tortoise in Australia, there are a few options available. The two main options are pet stores and breeders. Here’s a breakdown of each:

Pet Stores


Pet stores are a common place to buy tortoises in Australia. They often have a variety of species available and can provide advice on the care and feeding of your new pet

. Some pet stores may also offer warranties or guarantees on their animals.

However, it’s important to note that not all pet stores are created equal. Some may not have the expertise or resources to properly care for their animals properly, leading to health issues or even death.

It’s essential to do your research and choose a reputable pet store that prioritizes the health and well-being of its animals.




Another option for buying a tortoise in Australia is through a breeder. Breeders specialize in breeding and raising tortoises, so they often have a more comprehensive selection of species than pet stores.

They can also provide more personalized advice on the care and feeding of your new pet.

However, it’s important to choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of their animals. Some breeders may prioritize profit over the welfare of their animals, leading to health issues or even unethical breeding practices.

Whether you buy a tortoise from a pet store or a breeder, it’s essential to do your research and choose a reputable source that prioritizes the health and well-being of their animals.


Care and Maintenance



Tortoises require a spacious and secure enclosure to live in.

The enclosure should be large enough to allow the tortoise to move around freely and escape-proof to prevent the tortoise from wandering away.

The enclosure should also have a sheltered area where the tortoise can retreat when it wants to rest or hide.

Its enclosure should be kept clean and dry at all times and cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of waste and bacteria.




Tortoises are herbivores and require a diet rich in fiber and nutrients. They should be fed various fresh vegetables, fruits, and grasses, and their diet should be supplemented with calcium and vitamin D3.

Tortoises should be fed daily, and their food should be provided in a shallow dish to prevent the food from getting contaminated with substrate or feces.




Tortoises require regular health check-ups to ensure they are healthy and disease-free. They should be taken to a veterinarian specializing in reptiles at least once a year for a check-up.

Tortoises should also be monitored for signs of illness, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and respiratory distress. A tortoise should be taken to a veterinarian immediately if it shows any signs of disease.

In conclusion, caring for a tortoise requires significant time and effort. However, with the proper care and attention, tortoises can live long and healthy lives. Tortoises can thrive in captivity by providing them with a suitable enclosure, a nutritious diet, and regular healthcare.

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