African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

Jessica and Dauda tour Niassa visiting 13 honey-hunter communities

May 29, 2019

Jessica and Célestino Dauda from the Niassa Carnivore Project set off to interview honey-hunting communities across the Niassa Reserve. For Jessica this was a perfect opportunity to practise the Kiswahili she learnt as a child in Tanzania. It soon comes back! Despite car breakdowns and numerous punctures, she and Dauda interviewed 141 honey-hunters and recorded their honey-hunting vocalizations used to attract honeyguides. Thank you ANAC for your permission for our travels, and thank you to all the communities who so generously shared their time and expertise.


Honey-hunting Research Network workshop

The Honey-hunting Research Network (coordinated by Jessica van der Wal) met in Cape Town for a very enjoyable week of analysing and comparing interview data from honey-hunting cultures across Africa, painting a picture of the human cultural variation relevant to honeyguides, and its uncertain future on a rapidly changing continent. Joining in person were Wiro-Bless Kamboe, Rochelle Mphetlhe, George M’manga, Sanele Nhlabatsi, Daniella Mhangwana, Celiwe Ngcamphalala, Claire Spottiswoode and Jessica van der Wal. Thank you to the Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Fund for funding our get-together!

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New paper on human-honeyguide cooperation and communication

A new study from the Honeyguide Research Project shows that Greater Honeyguides learn the distinct calls that honey-hunters in different parts of Africa use to communicate with them, facilitating cooperation between species. Human honey-hunters signal to honeyguides using specialised calls that vary culturally across Africa. The new study shows using field experiments in Mozambique and Tanzania that honeyguides prefer the specialised calls of the local human culture they interact with, compared to those of a foreign culture. This implies that honeyguides can adjust to human cultural diversity, increasing the benefits of cooperation for both people and birds.

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