Combining a map-based public survey with an estimation of site occupancy to determine the recent and changing distribution of the koala in New South Wales

Daniel LunneyA,B, Mathew S. CrowtherA,C,D, Ian ShannonA and Jessica V. BryantA

ADepartment of Environment and Climate Change (NSW), PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia.
BSchool of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.
CInstitute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences (A08), University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
Corresponding author. Email: or

The present study demonstrates one solution to a problem faced by managers of species of conservation concern how to develop broad-scale maps of populations, within known general distribution limits, for the purpose of targeted management action. We aimed to map the current populations of the koala, Phascolarctos cinereus, in New South Wales, Australia. This cryptic animal is widespread, although patchily distributed. It principally occurs on private property, and it can be hard to detect. We combined a map-based mail survey of rural and outer-urban New South Wales with recent developments in estimating site occupancy and species-detection parameters to determine the current (2006) distribution of the koala throughout New South Wales. We were able to define the distribution of koalas in New South Wales at a level commensurate with previous community and field surveys. Comparison with a 1986 survey provided an indication of changes in relative koala density across the state. The 2006 distribution map allows for local and state plans, including the 2008 New South Wales Koala Recovery Plan, to be more effectively implemented. The application of this combined technique can now be extended to a suite of other iconic species or species that are easily recognised by the public.