The Wildlife Act, 1976, is the principal national legislation providing for the protection of wildlife and the control of some activities that may adversely affect wildlife. The Wildlife Act, 1976, came into operation on 1 June 1977. It was the only major legislation concerned with wildlife that was passed in the previous 45 years. It replaced the Game Preservation Act, 1930, and the Wild Birds (Protection) Act, 1930.
The aims of the Wildlife Act, 1976, are to provide for the protection and conservation of wild fauna and flora, to conserve a representative sample of important ecosystems, to provide for the development and protection of game resources and to regulate their exploitation, and to provide the services necessary to accomplish such aims.
Under the Act, the Minister responsible for nature conservation may afford protection to all wild species of fauna and flora. However, the 1976 Act did not provide for the conservation of fish species nor of aquatic invertebrates in general, except insofar as species may be added in agreement with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Currently all bird species, 22 other animal species or groups of species and 86 species of flora are afforded protected status.
The Act also enables the possession, trade and movement of wildlife to be regulated and controlled. Hunting and also falconry is controlled under the Act. Specific areas of importance for wildlife may be protected under the Act either as Nature Reserves, Refuges for Fauna, or by way of management agreements.
Under the Act, the Minister may provide assistance and advice on wildlife matters, undertake the necessary research and promote public knowledge and understanding of wildlife.
The Wildlife Act is not concerned with animal welfare per se, as its primary purpose is the conservation of wildlife. Animal welfare is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and Food.
More than 6,000 licences mainly concerned with hunting and import or export species are issued by NPWS under the Act every year. Almost all licences and certificates are issued free of charge under the Act. The Minister has power to attach conditions to any licence granted under the Act and to vary them.