More than 20 conservation groups have blasted the federal government's proposed koala census as a pointless smokescreen in an open letter demanding better habitat protection.
The letter to Environment Minister Sussan Ley sent on Thursday calls for her to instead overturn development approvals on sites with koala habitat and refuse any future applications.
It also asks Ms Ley to apply pressure on the states to halt native forest logging and fund new national parks containing important koala habitat.
"Degradation of koala habitat has increased under your government, and continues right now," the letter reads.
"Koalas cannot wait for a national count to reveal their numbers. They're on a knife-edge now."
Among the 23 organisations to join the call are the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Koala Action Queensland, Koala Rescue South Australia and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
"Counting koalas is like counting the deckchairs on the Titanic as it sinks," IFAW Oceania regional director Rebecca Keeble said.
"While the government does its research, the iconic animal is nearing closer to extinction."
The groups argue the government has ignored its own community consultation, and is delaying further action at a crucial time following last summer's bushfire crisis.
An estimated three billion animals were killed or displaced and up to seven billion trees destroyed or damaged during the bushfires.
A report commissioned by the IFAW revealed at least 6382 koalas were killed in NSW alone.
"There has been enough time lost in data collection when it is clear to everyone on the ground that the threats to koalas stem from their ongoing loss of habitat," the president of Queensland's Moreton Bay Koala Rescue, Terri Harvey, said.
Koala Rescue SA chair Libby Round said koala habitat protection is the only credible policy the federal government can enact.
"Anything else is diversionary," she said.
Ms Ley announced the $2 million census plan last month as part of a broader $18m for koala health research, medical support and habitat restoration.
She said scientists had complained of a serious lack of data and that a national audit would help to decide where to best direct funding and support.
Australian Associated Press
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