Bullet and Swaggie – male koala hierarchy

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Whilst Swaggie might appear at first glance, to be sitting peacefully here alone there is something else going on up in the tree tops of bloodwood gully.

Not far away, lower down, is Bullet.

Again this may look peaceful.

I was alerted to come racing down here with camera when I heard the screaming ...

This video was filmed over several hours so has been edited for the highlights.

We are near property boundary road, so sound is bad, I have to remove sound at some points.

you can see Bullet is quite close by.

Male koalas are very territorial, they are not nasty, nor are they bullies, they have complex social structures, and male hierarchy is established by fighting.

The behaviours here are complex, fighting in the tree tops is not easy, and the one on the defence retreats as far out as possible so the branch cannot take the weight of 2 koalas - dangerous strategy!

The screaming is behavioural, designed to signal "I am not fighting back - I submit"

Koalas do not vocalise a lot but when they do it has meaning to them.

Swaggie is now in a dangerous situation and needs to get upright again without breaking that thin branch, or making Bullet return.

The strategy of staying quite still is used to try reduce the risk of another attack and he is weighing up how to get out of this mess.

You can see how having thumbs on their feet allows them to grip that branch and spread the load.

You can see that this is taking time. I have seen males left holding on in precarious positions for many hours.

Enforcing this is as much a strategy by the one in the winning position, as is actually fighting as it forces submission of one male to the other, and so it establishes positions in the colony hierarchy.

He continues to give some occasional crying noises, to keep signalling that he is not making any threatening moves but has submitted.

Do not mistake this as crying because he is upset, these are behaviours designed to prevent territorial behaviours becoming deadly.

What a relief, he is back upright and stable again.

Some time later - Bullet is coming back again.

Swaggie knows and is already vocalising.

They will both be able to feel the impact the combined weight is having on the branch. This is not the kind of battle you can rush it must be carefully planned and executed.

You can almost feel Bullet's frustration as Swaggie is almost within reach.

What a strategy - is he trying to take some weight off, or cause Swaggie to unbalance?

Bullet decides he might come in from above.

It doesn't help, so he settles in to wait.

And now while they may look peaceful or like 2 mates chilling out together you now know the situation is very different.

Swaggie's best option is to keep his head turned away, and stay very still.

And Bullet sends a signal by completely turning his back on Swaggie.

They settled in here like this for several hours.

Finally, late morning, Bullet leaves the tree and heads up one of his home trees.

He must feel that the situation has been settled to his satisfaction.

Swaggie is in a much more stable position in the tree.

Late afternoon - Swaggie is high up and eating.

Remember these male disputes are an important behaviour that allows males to live together in a complex structured colony.

Swaggie is new to the area, and if he is to hang around, then he and the other males will come to an understanding.

Next morning - Swaggie is still in the area. So these behaviours are a part of koala life.

They both understand something about their positions here, but it doesn't mean they won't have more conflicts over the weeks, months or years.

Sadly, sometimes koalas do fall in these conflicts but as wild animals they must be strong to survive.

Keep watching for more instalments, who knows!