African Honeyguides

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human-animal relationship

New collaborative paper on safeguarding human-wildlife cooperation

Apr 11, 2022

Honey-hunter Iahaia Buanachique in the Niassa Special Reserve

Our paper on ‘Safeguarding Human-Wildlife Cooperation’ has been accepted in Conservation Letters. In a collaboration between ecologists, anthropologists, conservationists, and human-wildlife cooperation practitioners from 18 different countries, we review the benefits, threats and unique safeguarding considerations of human-wildlife cooperation. The remaining active forms of human-wildlife cooperation are human-honeyguide and human-dolphin cooperation, but these are at risk of joining several inactive forms. Broadly, our review highlights that efforts to conserve biological and cultural diversity should carefully consider interactions between human and animal cultures.

In the image at right, honey-hunter and co-author of the study, Iahaia “Mele” Buanachique shows a honey-harvest obtained with the help of a honeyguide in the Niassa Special Reserve, Mozambique.

We will share the link once the paper is published; in the meantime, you can read the abstract below in English, Portuguese and Kiswahili.

The authors of the paper are: van der Wal, J.E.M., Spottiswoode, C.N., Uomini, N.T., Cantor, M., Daura-Jorge, F.G., Afan, A.I., Attwood, M.C., Amphaeris, J., Balasani, F., Begg, C.M., Blair, C.J., Bronstein, J.L., Buanachique, I.O., Cuthill, R.R.T., Das, J., Deb, A., Dixit, T., Dlamini, G.S., Dounias, E., Gedi, I.I., Gruber, M., Hoffman, L.S., Holzlehner, T., Isack, H.A., Laltaika, A.E., Lloyd-Jones, D.J., Lund, J., Machado, A.M.S., Mahadevan, L., Moreno, I.B., Nwaogu, C.J., Pereira, V.L., Pierotti, R., Rucunua, S.A., dos Santos, W.F., Serpa, N., Smith, B.D., Tolkova, I., Tun, T., Valle-Pereira, J.V.S., Wood, B.M., Wrangham, R.W. & Cram, D.L. 

Safeguarding Human-Wildlife Cooperation

Abstract: Human-wildlife cooperation occurs when humans and free-living wild animals actively coordinate their behaviour to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. These interactionsprovide important benefits to both the human and wildlife communities involved, have wider impacts on the local ecosystem, and represent a unique intersection of human and animal cultures. The remaining active forms are human-honeyguide and human-dolphin cooperation, but these are at risk of joining several inactive forms (including human-wolf and human-orca cooperation). Human-wildlife cooperation faces a unique set of conservation challenges, as it requires multiple components—a motivated human and wildlife partner, a suitable environment, and compatible inter-species knowledge—which face threats from ecological and cultural changes. To safeguard human-wildlife cooperation, we recommend: (i) establishing ethically sound conservation strategies together with the participating human communities; (ii) conserving opportunities for human and wildlifeparticipation; (iii) protecting suitable environments; (iv) facilitating cultural transmission of traditional knowledge; (v) accessibly archiving Indigenous and scientific knowledge; and (vi) conducting long-term empirical studies to better understand these interactions and identify threats. Tailored safeguarding plans are therefore necessary to protect these diverse and irreplaceable interactions. Broadly, our review highlights that efforts to conserve biological and cultural diversity should carefully consider interactions between human and animal cultures.


Salvaguardar a Cooperação Humano-Fauna Selvagem

Resumo: A cooperação entre humanos e animais selvagens ocorre quando ambos coordenam ativamente seus comportamentos para alcançar um resultado mutuamente benéfico. Essas interações oferece benefícios importantes para ambas as partes, têm impactos amplos no ecossistema local e representam uma interseção única entre culturas humanas e não-humanas. A cooperação entre catadores-de-mel e a ave indicador-grande, e a cooperação entre pescadores artesanais e diferentes espécies de botos, são as formas ativas remanescentes de cooperação entre humanos e animais selvagens, mas correm risco de se tornarem inativas, como as cooperações entre caçadores e lobos, baleeiros e orcas e tantas outras documentadas no passado. Tais cooperações ativas, no entanto, enfrentam desafios particulares de conservação, pois requerem múltiplos componentes – a motivação tanto do parceiro humano quanto do animal, a adequação do ambiente e a compatibilidade do conhecimento interespecífico – os quais encontram-se atualmente ameaçados por mudanças ecológicas e culturais. Para salvaguardar a cooperação entre humanos e animais selvagens para as gerações futuras, recomendamos: (i) estabelecer, em conjunto com as comunidades humanas participantes, estratégias de conservação éticas; (ii) conservar as oportunidades de participação dos humanos e animais selvagens no comportamento cooperativo; (iii) proteger os ambientes adequados para a cooperação; (iv) facilitar a transmissão cultural do conhecimento tradicional necessário para esta interação; (v) arquivar os conhecimentos tradicional e científico de forma acessível; e (vi) realizar estudos empíricos de longo prazo para melhor compreender o funcionamento destas interações únicas e identificar potenciais ameaças. Planos de conservação específicos baseados no conhecimento cultural local são, portanto, necessários para proteger essas interações diversas e insubstituíveis. Em geral, a nossa revisão destaca que os esforços para conservar a diversidade biológica e cultural devem considerar cuidadosamente as interações entre as culturas humanas e não-humanas.


Ulinzi wa ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori 

Ikisiri: Ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori hutokea wakati binadamu na wanyamapori wanapounganisha kikamilifu tabia zao na kutekeleza manufaa kwa pande zote. Ushirikiano huu hutoa manufaa muhimu kwa jamii za binadamu na wanyamapori zinazohusika, pia una athari kubwa zaidi kwenye mfumo ikolojia na unawakilisha muunganiko wa kipekee wa tamaduni za binadamu na wanyama. Mifano iliyosalia ya ushirikiano wa binadamu na wanyamapori ni ushirikiano wa binadanu na kiongozi ya asali (ndege anayeongoza warinaji kuelekea asali ilipo) na binadamu na pomboo lakini kuna hatari kwamba ushirikiano huu unapotea kama ilivyo kwa ushirikiano wa binadamu na mbwa mwitu na binadamu na nyangumi (“orca”). Ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori unakabiliwa na changamoto za kipekee za uhifadhi, kwa kuwa unahitaji vipengele vingi kama ushirika wenye motisha kwa binadamu na wanyamapori, mazingira yanayofaa na maarifa yanayoendana na spishi mbalimbali; vipengele hivi vinakabiliwa na vikwazo vya mabadiliko ya kiikolojia na kitamaduni. Ili kulinda ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori, tunapendekeza: (i) kuanzisha mikakati madhubuti ya kimaadili ya uhifadhi kwa kushirikiana na jamii za binadamu zinazoshiriki; (ii) fursa za uhifadhi kwa ajili ya ushirikiano wa binadamu na wanyamapori; (iii) kulinda mazingira yanayofaa; (iv) kuwezesha usambazaji wa maarifa ya kiutamaduni; (v) kuhifadhi kwa urahisi maarifa ya kiasili na kisayansi; na (vi) kufanya tafiti za kitaalamu za muda mrefu ili kuelewa zaidi mwingiliano huu na kutambua vikwazo. Mipango ya ulinzi ni muhimu ili kulinda uhusiano  huu wa aina tofauti na usiowezekana kutengezwa tena. Kwa ujumla, utafiti wetu unasisitiza kwamba juhudi za kuhifadhi uanuwai wa kibaolojia na kiutamaduni zinapaswa kuzingatia kwa makini mwingiliano kati ya tamaduni za binadamu na wanyama.



Cultural Evolution Society grant awarded to Jessica van der Wal

Jessica van der Wal was awarded a grant from the Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Fund for her project entitled ‘Cultural mosaic of human-honeyguide mutualism’. This will allow her to grow the pan-African collaborative to document Africa’s remaining diversity of endangered honey-hunting cultures with honeyguide birds. Thank you to the CES for this wonderful support! The growing Honey-hunting Research Network currently exists of researchers in Cameroon (Dr Mazi Sandi and Jacob Wandala), Ghana (Wiro-Bless Kamboe), Eswatini (Sanele Nhlabatsi and Dr Celiwe Ngcamphalala), Malawi (George Malembo M’manga), Nigeria (Anap Ishaku Afan), and Tanzania (Eliupendo Alaitetei Laltaika, Amana Kilawi). Other partners in the project are anthropologist Dr Brian Wood and database manager Farisayi Dakwa.

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Out now: two review papers on human-wildlife cooperation

We have just published two review papers on human-wildlife cooperation, in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of 41 scientists, conservationists, and practitioners of human-wildlife cooperation from around the world. These papers were products from discussions started at the Human-Wildlife Mutualism Workshop we organised in January 2021. In “Safeguarding human-wildlife cooperation”, published in Conservation Letters, we review the benefits, threats and unique safeguarding considerations of human-wildlife cooperation. In  “The Ecology and Evolution of Human-Wildlife Cooperation”, published in People and Nature, we provide an overview about what is known about the ecology and evolution of cooperation between humans and wild animals. Abstracts of both papers are available in English, Portuguese, and Kiswahili here. Please also see media coverage from Mongabay, The Conversation, and an interview with Jessica van der Wal in Science.

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Laltaika interviewed by Mongabay

The conservation news website Mongabay interviewed Eliupendo Laltaika, who recently completed his MSc as part of our team, about his research on the ecology and conservation of human-honeyguide mutualism. Laltaika is about to rejoin our team to start his PhD, extending his research on human-honeyguide mutualism in Tanzania.

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