Parrot specimens, ANWC, Canberra

Parrot specimens at the ANWC in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.

The Australian National Wildlife Collection (ANWC)

The Australian National Wildlife Collection is a significant biodiversity resource aiding the study, classification and documentation of Australia’s mammals, birds and reptiles.

  • 25 August 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011

The Australian National Wildlife Collection (ANWC) is the official Commonwealth collection of Australian land vertebrates and covers amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Established in 1966 and gazetted by the Australian Government in 1976, the Collection is administered by CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, which is charged with its development.

As a source of information on Australian wildlife, the ANWC is priceless. It holds:

  • comprehensive collections of Australasian land vertebrates covering:
    • 95 per cent of Australia's existing bird species
    • 75 per cent of its mammals
    • 60 per cent of its reptiles, and
    • 70 per cent of its amphibians
      The ANWC is accompanied by first-class ecological information which throws light on the way in which these animals exist.
  • the largest research library of wildlife sounds in Australia, with over:
    • 60 000 recordings of 400 species of birds
    • 80 species of mammals, and
    • 20 species of amphibians
  • specialist collections of Australian
    • birds
    • kangaroos
    • dingoes
    • bats
  • an extensive bank of cryo-frozen tissues of Australian and New Guinea birds for molecular investigation.

Purpose and objectives

The Collection aims to provide scientifically up-to-date information about what kinds of vertebrates Australia has and where each lives.

This is vital for information on wildlife nationally for:

  • wildlife management
  • conservation strategies
  • biological research
  • public information.

Important research role

The ANWC is a storehouse of information on Australia's biodiversity.

It underpins a significant part of the country's taxonomic, genetic, biogeographical and ecological research and is therefore a vital resource for conservation.

It is consulted widely by Australian and international biologists.

The ANWC also carries out its own research. For example, its staff pioneered the concept of 'ultrataxa' - distinct regional races of a species - as the basic unit for vertebrate taxonomy, significantly advancing the conservation of biodiversity.

It also played an important role in demonstrating that Australia's songbirds such as robins, wrens and flycatchers evolved separately from their namesakes in the Northern Hemisphere.

The ANWC has helped resolve the identity of economically important groups of native animals and has played key roles in many major fauna impact surveys for government and industry.


As a by-product of the Collection, we produce a wide range of publications and references for specialty groups and the general public. 

This material offers new and improved ways of gathering, handling and delivering biodiversity information and is a key collection service.

Discover more of our Facilities & Collections.