Imported Animal Quarantine Surveillance
Animal Health Australia (AHA) manages the TSE Freedom Assurance Program, which includes banning importation of livestock from countries with reported incidences of BSE.
Animals from countries with reported BSE cases
Australia has been recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and its trading partners as being free from transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and scrapie.
After extensive consultation, the Australian governments, livestock industries and scientific community agreed that cattle imported from countries with recorded cases of BSE might have been exposed to the BSE agent before arriving in Australia. As a precautionary measure, it was agreed that these animals should not enter the human or animal food chains in Australia.
Banned livestock imports
Australian authorities have banned the importation of:
- live sheep and goats from all countries except New Zealand since 1952
- cattle from European countries since 1998
- cattle from Japan since 2001
- cattle from Canada since 2003
- cattle from USA since 2004.
Cattle already imported from countries that subsequently reported BSE cases have been traced, and are under permanent quarantine in accordance with the Biosecurity Act 2015. This section of the Act prohibits the unauthorised movement of cattle, or their sale for slaughter, and ensures that their carcases will be disposed of in an approved manner upon death or destruction.
All these cattle have been permanently identified in accordance with the National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) and their details recorded in the NLIS database. These measures allow the normal commercial management of the animals, but prohibit their use for the production of human or animal food.
Earlier imports from higher risk countries
Some imported cattle were slaughtered before BSE was reported in their country of origin. But scientific risk assessments have shown a negligible likelihood that BSE became established in the Australian cattle herd as a result of the importation of cattle from Europe, Japan, Canada or the US.
Australia has an excellent capability to trace animals from markets back to the most recent property of residence. This system has proved invaluable in disease eradication programs and emergency disease situations.
Our traceability has been strengthened by:
- National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) to provide whole-of-life traceability
- National Vendor Declaration (NVD) system to record livestock movements.
Surveillance of zoo animals
Live zoo animals have been imported into Australia from several countries reporting BSE in cattle.
We identified the need to include zoo animals in our TSE surveillance after the diagnosis of feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE) in an imported cheetah in Broome Zoo in 1992 and in an imported golden cat that died at Melbourne Zoo in 2002.
We aim to address the risks posed by animals imported from countries with reported BSE by ensuring the death of any designated zoo animal is investigated in a nationally consistent manner, as defined in the National TSE Surveillance Program (NTSESP).
The Protocol for Management of Designated Zoo Animals imported from countries at risk from TSEs (pdf – 864kB) was developed and implemented. This protocol, which is reviewed annually, documents a national approach for the management of at-risk animals and the response to a positive TSE diagnosis in inventoried risk-animals within the Australian zoo population.
We apply this protocol to the following animals, which are referred to as ‘designated zoo animals’.
“A designated zoo animal is a mammal, meeting the following definitions, living within a registered zoo or wildlife park in Australia:
- All felidae, bovidae and primates having lived any part of their life in a country not listed as having a negligible or controlled BSE status by the OIE (see http://www.oie.int/?id=495) and having spent less than 15 years continuously in Australia following their most recent arrival
- All felidae, bovidae and primates having spent less than 15 years continuously in Australia following their most recent arrival and having lived in the following countries before 2001: Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, or any other country listed as having the OIE controlled BSE status (see http://www.oie.int/?id=495).
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
All cervidae having spent any portion of their life in USA and Canada, or any other country in which CWD has been reported.
All members of the genera Ovis and Capra, imported from any country except New Zealand.”
Australia’s current zoo population does not include any animals that fall into the CWD and scrapie categories, listed above, so the protocol only deals with management of BSE-related issues.
With the exception of scrapie and CWD of deer, TSEs affecting zoo animals are not contagious. As long as affected animals are kept out of the human and animal food chain, there is negligible risk of spread to in-contact animals and cohorts, or contamination of the environment.
Specific management measures are not required for progeny or in-contact animals, or for animal enclosures.
Management of designated zoo animals involves minimal intervention, mainly focusing on diagnostic and disposal measures after death.
Industry tracing schemes
Australia’s Cattle Tracing Scheme was first implemented in 1996 by AHA and funded by the Australian grass-fed cattle industry as a voluntary scheme to address the risks of cattle imported from the UK and Switzerland. The scheme now includes cattle from Europe, Japan, Canada and the US, and would likely include any other country that detects a native-born case of BSE.
The scheme offers owners of these potentially risky animals the option to destroy their cattle and receive compensation or to continue to have cattle maintained under lifetime quarantine surveillance. Surveillance includes cattle being identified under the NLIS and an annual report of the animal’s status by the owner.