Steps to importing zoo animals

To import zoo animals into New Zealand there are special procedures to help reduce any biosecurity risks. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.

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What you need to know

An overview of importing zoo animals from start to finish

To successfully import zoo animals you must know about:

  • the import health standards (IHS) for zoo animals
  • approved countries and species
  • applying for a permit from MPI at least 6 weeks before your animals leave the exporting country
  • notifying MPI and an official veterinarian in New Zealand at least 7 days before the animals' arrival
  • sending documentation to MPI at least 72 hours before the animals arrive
  • declaring medication, if applicable
  • post-arrival quarantine needs
  • relevant fees and charges.

Once imported into New Zealand, zoo animals spend the rest of their lives in a containment facility – in most cases a zoo. Although they may be allowed to move between containment facilities, they will never be released.

Only approved zoo operators can import

To import zoo animals, you must operate an approved containment facility for zoo animals, such as a zoo, animal park, or butterfly house.

If you don't operate one of these, you'll need to apply to MPI to become an approved containment facility. This involves a complex series of assessments of the facility and the operator's competencies in appropriate fields.

The requirements for containment facilities are detailed in a standard.

Download the standard for containment facilities for zoo animals [PDF, 662 KB]

Download the guidance notes for applying to become an approved facility [PDF, 585 KB]

Zoo animals transiting New Zealand

Zoo animals may transit New Zealand on their way to another country. Animals in transit must remain on the vessel or aircraft that brings them to New Zealand at all times, and can't stay longer than 24 hours.

Zoo animals transiting New Zealand are subject to biosecurity requirements.

Related importing processes

This process is for zoo animals being imported into New Zealand. Refer to other sections of this website if you want to import:

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Check that your animals can be imported

You can only import certain species of zoo animals from approved countries into approved zoo containment facilities. The species must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and by an import health standard (IHS). The IHS will also specify the countries from which zoo animals can be imported.

Check that the animal you want to import has an import health standard (IHS) and that it's coming from an approved country mentioned in the IHS.

If your animal isn't listed in an IHS or isn't from an approved country, you can:

  • ask for an approved country (or territory) to be added to the appropriate IHS
  • ask for a new standard to be developed.

Download the application to develop an IHS for live animals [PDF, 164 KB]

MPI will only develop a new IHS if the EPA has approved the animal species in New Zealand.

After EPA approval, MPI will do a risk analysis. The approval process involves discussions between MPI and officials from the export country seeking to be approved.

For more information, email

Comply with the IHS requirements

The IHS tells you everything you need to do to import your animal from the approved country.

You need to read and understand the IHS for the animal you want to bring to New Zealand. Make sure you can meet all of the IHS requirements before you start.

Your IHS will list any specific animal requirements – for example, whether there are minimum age restrictions and whether the animal needs to be microchipped.

To import a zoo animal, you must operate an approved containment facility for zoo animals.

You also have to arrange for a transitional facility to receive your animal when it arrives in New Zealand. MPI officials can help you with these arrangements.

On arrival, the animal will be sent directly to the transitional facility. Once the animal has met all of the IHS requirements, it will be sent from the transitional facility to the main zoo containment facility.

Apply for an import permit

When arrangements for your transitional facility have been confirmed, you can apply for a permit to import the animal.

You'll need to apply for the permit at least 6 weeks before your animals leave the country of export.

Apply for your import permit through our online permit application system.

How to use the online permit application system

Details on how to use the system are in our live animals online permit application instructions [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Notify MPI before the animal arrives

MPI and an official veterinarian in New Zealand must be notified of the import at least 7 days before arrival, and your documentation must be sent 72 hours before your animal's arrival so that inspection can be arranged. Your documentation should include the:

  • flight/ship number
  • date and expected time of arrival
  • consignee's name and contact details
  • species and breed
  • number of animals in the consignment
  • country of origin
  • bill of lading (a document issued by a carrier with details of the consignment and ownership).

Email your notification and documents to

Prepare documentation for your zoo animal's arrival

You must have all of the correct documentation ready to present to an MPI official on arrival.

The documentation may be in multiple languages as long as one of the languages is English. Include with the documentation:

  • an original veterinary certificate, as set out in the IHS, signed and stamped on every page by an official of the competent veterinary authority of the exporting country
  • a copy of the import permit
  • a copy of the declaration of medicines form (if applicable).

Declare animal medication

If any of your zoo animals are receiving any medication and need it during travel, you need to complete a declaration.

Download the declaration of medicines form [DOCX, 247 KB]

A copy of the veterinarian's prescription must be provided to MPI before or when the animal arrives in New Zealand.

If the veterinary medicine will be accompanying your consignment, include this paperwork with your export documents. Up to 3 months' supply of medicine will generally be given clearance.

Check that your carrier complies with container regulations

The requirements for the container(s) transporting your zoo animals are in the IHS. Check that your carrier complies with the design and other specifications.

Comply with extra requirements if using wood crates or containers

If your animals are shipped to New Zealand in wooden crates or containers, or wood has been used as flooring or walls, you'll also need to comply with the requirements for importing wood packaging.

Containers used for transporting live animals must be new, or cleaned and disinfected with a virucidal disinfectant.

Clean and dry equipment

All equipment entering New Zealand with zoo animals must comply with the IHS for importing equipment associated with animals or water.

Getting your import documentation

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

Arrival procedures in New Zealand

Your animal will be taken to the designated transitional facility. The animal and its paperwork will be checked there.

If the animal passes inspection and all supporting documentation is in order, the animal will be transferred to your containment facility.

If an animal fails to meet any of the requirements, it may be:

  • held in the transitional facility for further inspection, tests, or treatments
  • shipped to another country or sent back to the country of origin
  • destroyed.

You'll be required to pay for any costs involved.

Who to contact

If you have questions about importing zoo animals, email

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