Koala census underway in Australia

Volunteers are helping Australia's National Parks Association tally up the number of koala's in New South Wales and Queensland. Dubbed the Great Koala Count, the goal of the census is to determine

The purpose of the census is to determine just how much the population of the nation's most famous animal has declined.

Government figures show that between 1990 and 2010, koala numbers in New South Wales and Queenland fell by 33 and 43 percent respectively.

Disease and expanding human populations are largely to blame, but drought and Australia's ferocious bush fires are also taking a toll.

The bears are already under threat from expanding human populations, drought and bush fires. With temperatures expected to rise and droughts to extend, according to scientists, the populations will only further decline.

And so, armed with cell phone cameras and a questionnaire, the volunteers are taking to the forests to see how many koalas are living in the trees.

"You look at tall trees, small trees, heavily foliated trees as well," advised Professor Robert Close from the University of Western Sydney.

"We're bringing koala conservation into the 21st century. We're using a smartphone app, making it much easier for people to contribute," said Dr. Grainne Clearly of the National Parks Association, who organized the census.

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    Danielle Elliot is a freelance science editor and reporter for CBS News. She holds an M.A. in science and health journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in broadcast journalism from the University of Maryland. Follow her on Twitter - @daniellelliot.

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