If all of these methods are used together and used well, a tally that has only a 10% margin of error can be made, Dr Whisson said.
A spokesperson for Ms Ley, the Minister of the Environment, said a national expert workshop on koalas will be held next year to determine how best to do the count. “The audit will take a few months from there, depending on the scale of the problems identified and the strategies identified,” the spokesperson added.
Dr Whisson stressed that Australian officials cannot wait for the results of the audit to tackle the problem of declining populations. There is already abundant data to show that the number of koalas is on the decline in parts of the country, she said.
“If it takes a few years for the count to be produced, we will see the numbers continue to decline during this period,” she warned.
In fact, 23 conservation groups last week called in an open letter titled “Koalas Need More Than a Population Census” that the government do more for habitat protection. “The degradation of koala habitat has increased under your government, and is continuing today,” said the letter to the Minister of the Environment. “Koalas can’t wait for a national count to reveal their numbers. They are now on a razor’s edge.
Referring to the emergency room, Rebecca Keeble, Oceania regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “Counting koalas is like counting the deckchairs on the Titanic as it sinks.
Some conservation groups are already taking the issue into their own hands.
The World Wildlife Fund has an ambitious goal of doubling koala populations in eastern Australia by using drones to deposit tens of thousands of eucalyptus seeds to regenerate land ravaged by bushfires (the koalas eat eucalyptus leaves and use trees for shelter) and create a fund to encourage landowners to create koala havens.