Out today in the Journal of Zoology: our new collaborative paper on the potential cooperation between honey badgers and honeyguides. Such a partnership may have implications for the origins of our own species’ cooperation with honeyguides and for the ecology and conservation of both honey badgers and honeyguides.
We reviewed the evidence that honey badgers and honeyguides cooperate to access bees’ nests, drawing from the published literature, from our own observations whilst studying both species, and by conducting 394 interviews with honey-hunters in 11 communities across nine African countries.
We find that the scientific evidence relies on incomplete and second-hand accounts and does not convincingly indicate that the two species cooperate. The majority of honey-hunters we interviewed were similarly doubtful about the interaction, but many interviewees in the Hadzabe, Maasai, and mixed culture communities in Tanzania reported having seen honey badgers and honeyguides interact, and think that they do cooperate.
Overall, the evidence we have gathered suggests that badgers and honeyguides likely cooperate in a restricted part of Africa, but substantial uncertainty remains and the reports are as-yet unconfirmed. We provide tips for studies aiming to clarify this fascinating interspecies interaction.
This paper was a result of a great and fun collaboration between researchers from nine African countries who study honeyguides, badgers, and honey-hunter cultures. You can find a Kiswahili translation of the abstract here.