African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

Honours students Rion Cuthill and Cameron Blair complete projects

Oct 22, 2021

Researchers at Honeywood Farm
Congratulations to Rion Cuthill and Cameron Blair for successfully finalising their University of Cape Town Honours research dissertations hosted by our project. Rion’s thesis was titled ‘Where there is smoke, is there fire? The role of the honeyguide-human mutualism in African savannah fire ecology’ and supervised by Claire Spottiswoode and Sally Archibald. Cameron’s thesis was titled ‘Does the remarkable guiding call of the Greater Honeyguide develop from its begging call?’ and supervised Claire Spottiswoode and Jessica van der Wal.

In the image, Cameron (left), Rion (right) and Dr Gabriel Jamie (centre) carry out honeyguide fieldwork in South Africa, at Honeywood Farm near Swellendam in the Western Cape.



New collaborative paper on honeyguide-human cooperation in Kenya

In a new paper in Frontiers in Conservation Science in collaboration with Isa Gedi, we report on the honey-hunting culture with greater honeyguides of the Awer people in Kenya. Awer honey-hunters depend on wild honey as a source of income, and readily seek the cooperation of honeyguides. To attract honeyguides, they whistle on the shell of a Giant African Land Snail. We thank the interviewees for sharing their honey-hunting culture with us.

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Laltaika awarded a Distinction for his MSc dissertation

Warmest congratulations to Eliupendo Laltaika, whose MSc research dissertation “Understanding the mutualistic interaction between greater honeyguides and four co-existing human cultures in northern Tanzania” was awarded with Distinction. Laltaika will graduate with an MSc in Conservation Biology from the University of Cape Town in December, and will rejoin the Honeyguide Research Project team as a PhD student from 2022. The image shows Laltaika interviewing a Ndorobo honey-hunter in September 2020, as part of his research on the honey-hunting cultures of Maasai, Sonjo, Hadzabe and Ndorobo communities in Tanzania.

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Honeyguide fieldwork in Niassa

David had a very successful field trip to our honeyguide study site in the Niassa Special Reserve, Mozambique, where as well as collecting data he was able to celebrate a fourth year of collaboration with our honey-hunter colleagues at our end of year ‘festa’. On this trip David was accompanied by Tom Bachmann – a masters student at Wageningen University – who has been providing valuable help with data checking and field assistance. The ‘segos’ (greater honeyguides) in the area were as eager to guide as always, and Tom and David collected data from more than thirty guiding trips. Some of the honeyguides which took them and their Mozambican honey-hunter colleagues to bees were known birds which were colour-ringed on previous trips, indicating that birds in our study population are still thriving!

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