African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

New collaborative paper on honeyguide-human cooperation in Kenya

Jan 3, 2022

Awer snail whistle

In a new paper in Frontiers in Conservation Science, we report on the honey-hunting culture with greater honeyguides of the marginalised Awer people in Kenya, historically a hunter-gatherer culture who today practise a mixed economy including significant amounts of foraging for wild foods. Isa Gedi from the Northern Rangelands Trust interviewed six Awer honey-hunters across four villages to document their cultural practices. Awer honey-hunters depend on wild honey as a source of income, and readily seek the cooperation of honeyguides. Interviewees go out honey-hunting once a week after the big rains. To attract honeyguides, interviewees consistently whistled “fuuj fuuj fuuj” or whistled on the shell of a Giant African Land Snail (which is only ever done in this context). Honeyguides are not actively rewarded with wax, as it is believed that once a bird is fed it will not cooperate again for some time. Honey-hunting practices are declining in Lamu County, which interviewees attributed to drought and a lack of interest by the youth. These findings expand our understanding of how human-honeyguide mutualism persists across a range of human cultural variation. We thank the interviewees for sharing their honey-hunting culture with us, and acknowledge the support of the Awer Community Conservancy which partners with Northern Rangelands Trust in matters of community-based conservation.


David presents at the Apimondia Africa Symposium

David Lloyd-Jones recently gave a talk on what honeyguides and honey-hunters have taught us about Niassa’s wild honeybee ecology at the Apimondia Africa Regional Symposium held in Durban. He was honoured to pay further tribute to Ricardo Guta and his contribution to bee research in Niassa Special Reserve. Many...

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In memory of our colleague Ricardo Guta

Ricardo Guta, our dear colleague and friend in our research team, tragically died on 1 December 2022 following a swimming accident in the Cape mountains. All our thoughts are with his wife, Lailat, and their children Adrielle and Piotr. Ricardo’s life was honoured by his colleagues in a memorial at the University of Cape Town on 9 December 2022. He will soon be laid to rest by his family in his home city of Beira, Mozambique.

Ricardo’s warm and generous personality and passion for natural history touched everyone he met. He was much loved and respected at Gorongosa National Park where he worked as an entomologist, at the University of Cape Town where he had just completed his MSc studies, and at the Niassa Special Reserve where we recently carried out a wonderful field trip together. Ricardo had just begun his PhD in our research team, studying the influence of honeyguide-human mutualism on honeybee ecology. We are heartbroken to have lost a wonderful scientist, conservationist and human being, and we miss him deeply.

Ricardo’s legacy will live on in our team as we remember his joy and optimism, and his remarkable capacity to bring people together.

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