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Advice on how to find out whether a threatened species is in your area

What do we mean?

A survey is usually performed to find out if a threatened species is present at the site, both for effective planning and biodiversity conservation.
A ‘survey’ for an animal or plant usually involves some kind of search. A preliminary 'desk-top' survey can be conducted prior to an 'on-ground' survey, using existing database and published location records for threatened species. An on-ground survey involves a site visit and some form of active searching or sampling for species present at the site.
The sorts of things you may wish to find out from a survey include: whether a species occurs at a particular site, where within the site a species occurs, how many individuals there are, and the density of individuals (i.e. how many per unit area.

Why is surveying for a threatened species important?

It will almost always be more efficient (and cheaper) to find out that a threatened species is present at a site by conducting an on-ground survey prior to undertaking a planned activity. Remember, finding out what is there prior to commencing an activity allows more effective planning. Locating or being alerted to the presence of threatened species half way through an activity can be disruptive, costly, and lead to poor outcomes for biodiversity conservation as well as for the proponent. 

General points to consider

  • To perform an on-ground survey for a species you must know what to look for and how to distinguish similar species. It may be necessary to employ an environmental consultant.​
  • To see which threatened species have been recorded at a site, do a Natural Values Atlas search, either through the Area Search function in this website, or go straight to the Natural Values Atlas (NVA) website.
  • The NVA is a good place to start looking, but is not necessarily a definitive record of the threatened species occurring in an area. A species may not have been recorded because nobody has ever looked.
  • Conducting a survey is especially important if a threatened species has been recorded in the vicinity of the site in the past, or if there is potential habitat for the species present within the site.
  • Note that regulators may have specific survey requirements. See Planning Ahead: Regulators and permits for more information.
  • Survey methods vary widely; some are very simple and require no specialist equipment, others may be very complex or difficult to conduct and require specialist equipment such as live-traps, remote/automatic cameras etc.
  • Remember to check whether your survey requires a permit. You may require a permit even for disturbing a threatened animal or removing its products, such as nests or droppings, or for cutting part of a threatened plant.
  • To have some confidence in your survey results, your survey method must be adequate. False negatives (where you fail to detect a species which is in fact present) are always a danger. For example, this may occur if the surveyor is not experienced in identifying the species, or the survey is conducted at the wrong time of year.
  • If in doubt about whether a survey is required, or if you require some advice on how to go about a survey, seek advice from an environmental consultant, or contact the Threatened Species Section.



The agency most commonly responsible for regulating this activity is listed below (but refer also to the Permits section on the Planning Ahead page):