African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

News

Cultural Evolution Society grant awarded to Jessica van der Wal

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.

Out now: two review papers on human-wildlife cooperation

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.

Laltaika interviewed by Mongabay

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.

Out now: two review papers on human-wildlife cooperation

New collaborative paper on the ecology and evolution of human-wildlife cooperation

Our paper entitled “The Ecology and Evolution of Human-Wildlife Cooperation” has been accepted for publication in the journal People and Nature. This review article provides an overview about what is known about the ecology and evolution of cooperation between humans and wild animals. Specifically, we discuss the impacts of these interactions on the participants and the wider ecosystem, the development and regulation of the cooperative behaviours, and finally, how the interactions may have evolved. Our review highlights that much remains to be learned about human-wildlife cooperation, and we recommend that ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and anthropologists work together so we can better understand these fascinating interspecies partnerships.

Please click ‘Read More’ below to find the paper’s abstract in English, Portuguese and Kiswahili.

New collaborative paper on safeguarding human-wildlife cooperation

New collaborative paper on safeguarding human-wildlife cooperation

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.

Please click ‘Read More’ below to find the paper’s abstract in English, Portuguese and Kiswahili.

New collaborative paper on honeyguide-human cooperation in Kenya

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.

Laltaika awarded a Distinction for his MSc dissertation

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.

Honours students Rion Cuthill and Cameron Blair complete projects

Honours students Rion Cuthill and Cameron Blair complete projects

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.

Honeyguide fieldwork in Niassa

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!

Honey-hunter ‘capulana’

Honey-hunter ‘capulana’

Jessica collaborated with Cape Town artist Jane Solomon to produce a ‘capulana’ (a traditional Mozambican sarong) depicting a honey-hunting scene in Niassa. The capulanas were distributed among our honey-hunter colleagues in Mbamba village – the image shows the Projecto Sego team of honey-hunters with the capulana in September 2021. The objective of this initiative was to provide a form of media for honey-hunters to talk to, and hopefully enthuse, others in the village (especially the youth) about their profession. Thank you very much to the Eric Hosking Trust for their grant that supported this initiative.

Laltaika honoured as a Top 100 Young African Conservation Leader

Laltaika honoured as a Top 100 Young African Conservation Leader

Wonderful news: Eliupendo Alaitetei Laltaika has been selected for the inaugural Top 100 Young African Conservation Leaders list announced today, celebrating those whose work “promises to leave a lasting impression in the African conservation landscape”. Congratulations, Laltaika – we’re proud to be your colleagues!

Laltaika’s citation reads, “A lion hunter as a young pastoralist turned conservationist, Eliupendo now protects the endangered rhino population of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a Park Ranger. He has rescued 20 wild dogs from retaliation, killing and planted over 30,000 plants via conservation clubs. He is also researching the extraordinary cooperative relationship between honeyguide birds and human honey hunters. He founded the Ngorongoro Biodiversity Conservation Project.”

Please visit https://top100youth.africa to meet 99 other inspiring young conservation leaders from throughout the continent.

Workshop on “Human-Wildlife Mutualisms”

Workshop on “Human-Wildlife Mutualisms”

Together with Natalie Uomini at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, we hosted a two-day online workshop on “Human-Wildlife Mutualisms”. We were joined by 40 colleagues from 14 countries to share experiences and findings, and improve our understanding of what is known about these unique partnerships. We were delighted to meet colleagues with shared interests including anthropologists, historians, conservation practitioners, and honey-hunters, as well as fellow biologists such as our colleagues in Brazil who study the fascinating cooperative partnership between fishers and bottlenose dolphins. David, Dom, Jessica, Laltaika and Claire all presented talks on our honeyguide research in Mozambique and Tanzania, as did our close collaborators Brian Wood and Anne Kandler. Several additional honey-hunter colleagues and a fisher from Brazil participated via subtitled videos.

David returns to Niassa

David returns to Niassa

David Lloyd-Jones was reunited with our main study population of honeyguides, and colleagues in the field at the Mariri Environmental Centre in the Niassa Special Reserve, when a brief visit to Mozambique became possible. After a three-day motorbike ride from his home base in Tanzania, David met with our honey-hunter colleagues and repaired their equipment, and checked in our study area which was looking lush and green in the early rainy season. This is a time of year when food supplies are low in the village, and many of our honey-hunter colleagues are busy tending to their crops whilst only going on the occasional honey-hunt.

Laltaika successfully completes his fieldwork

Laltaika successfully completes his fieldwork

Eliupendo Laltaika is back in Moshi after successfully completing his Masters fieldwork in northern Tanzania, studying the human-honeyguide mutualism across four honey-hunting cultures (the Maasai, Ndorobo, Hadzabe and Sonjo people). Laltaika overcame many logistical hurdles and car breakdowns to collect a wonderful dataset from interviews and honey-hunting trips, and is now analysing his data and writing his thesis. Thank you to all the communities he interviewed for their generosity in sharing their honey-hunting experiences, and to TAWIRI, COSTECH and the NRCA for their support.

Honeyguide fieldwork in South Africa

Honeyguide fieldwork in South Africa

Claire and Jessica, together with colleagues Dr Chima Nwaogu and Dr Gabriel Jamie, carried out pilot fieldwork at Honeywood Farm alongside Grootvadersbosch Forest in the southern Cape, South Africa. We were delighted to catch several greater and lesser honeyguides and look forward to returning for further fieldwork. Thank you to John and Miranda Moodie for their warm welcome to work on their beautiful farm. It was thrilling to see so many honeyguides so close to our home base at the University of Cape Town (and to be doing fieldwork again)!

Honeyguides at the ASAB Winter Meeting

Honeyguides at the ASAB Winter Meeting

Dom Cram and Jessica van der Wal shared their latest honeyguide research in two presentations at the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) Virtual Winter Meeting.  Dom’s talk was entitled “Produce or scrounge? Correlates and consequences of cooperating with humans for the greater honeyguide” and Jessica’s talk was entitled “A micro-geographic mosaic of mutualism between honeyguides and humans”. Read on for more information, and for a link to Dom’s Twitter thread where he gives a step-by-step guide on how he made his unusual presentation, liberated from the shackles of Powerpoint!

Eliupendo Laltaika gives a talk in the Leadership for Conservation in Africa series

Eliupendo Laltaika gives a talk in the Leadership for Conservation in Africa series

Eliupendo Laltaika gave a talk on his career journey and conservation work in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, as part of the Leadership for Conservation in Africa seminar series. Laltaika gives us great insight into his journey from killing wildlife for retaliation as a young man, through to becoming a wildlife ranger, founding a conservation NGO (the Ngorongoro Biodiversity Conservation Project), and currently doing his Masters studies at the University of Cape Town and carrying out research on honeyguide-human mutualism as part of our team.

Dr Jessica van der Wal gives a talk on honeyguide mutualism research at the African BirdFair

Dr Jessica van der Wal gives a talk on honeyguide mutualism research at the African BirdFair

Jessica van der Wal gave a talk on honeyguide-human mutualism as part of a session on research at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, at Birdlife South Africa’s Virtual African Birdfair. Dr Gabriel Jamie gave a talk on mimicry in the parasitic finches of Africa , representing our sister research project on coevolution between brood-parasitic birds and their hosts (more information at www.AfricanCuckoos.com). See also the amazing line-up of other talks at the Virtual African BirdFair – thank you BirdLife South Africa!

UCT student Rion Cuthill joins us for a week

UCT student Rion Cuthill joins us for a week

This week we are joined by Rion Cuthill, a third year student at UCT studying towards a B.Sc. in Ecology and Evolution and Applied Statistics. Rion is helping us to obtain estimates of population sizes of villages in Niassa Special Reserve through remote sensing, an essential parameter to understand the economic value of the honeyguide-human mutualism, and in models trying to understand the variation in honey-hunting cultures. Rion is an avid birder and general naturalist during his spare time.
 

Launching Honeyguiding.me for all bird enthusiasts in Africa!

Launching Honeyguiding.me for all bird enthusiasts in Africa!

Honeyguiding.me is a citizen science project for which we welcome all records of Greater Honeyguides anywhere in Africa. Visit our Honeyguiding.me project site in English, en français & em Português!

Please also follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram @honeyguiding.

Laltaika interviewed by Mongabay

Welcome Laltaika

Welcome to Eliupendo Alaitetei Laltaika, who is joining our team for his MSc research on honeyguide-human interactions in Tanzania. Laltaika is particularly interested in studying the honey-hunting culture of coexisting human cultural groups in the Ngorongoro region of northern Tanzania who all rely heavily on honey, with a particular focus on the Maasai people.

Missing Niassa, but data collection goes on

Missing Niassa, but data collection goes on

This is the first year that the research team is not at the Niassa Reserve for our annual “Sego Festa” (honeyguide party), owing to Covid19 lockdown. But our honey-hunter colleagues on the ground, supported by the wonderful Mariri Environmental Centre team, continue to collect amazing data throughout it all.

Honeyguides in Cape Town

Dom gives a seminar at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, about his preliminary findings on honeyguide producers and scroungers. David and Jessica give presentations about their honeyguide research in the Niassa Reserve at the FitzPatrick Institute’s AGM.

Research group meet for “Sego Summit”

Dom arrives in Cape Town for a week long “Sego Summit” meeting with Claire, Jessica and David. The first time that the research team is reunited outside of the field! Long days discussing all things honeyguide, with many interesting breakthroughs.

Honeyguides at TAWIRI in Arusha

In early December David was thrilled to present some exciting new findings relating to unusual guiding behaviour at the biannual TAWIRI (Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute) conference in Arusha.

National Geographic film a Niassa honey-hunt

A National Geographic team arrives at Mariri. They captured images and footage of a typical honey-hunt, which will be published in the magazine in 2021. Fascinating to learn about wildlife photography and camera-trapping from such an experienced team.

“Red-over-red” still going strong after 6 years!

“Red-over-red” still going strong after 6 years!

“Red-over-red”, here held by Carvalho Issa Nanguar, confidently guides us to a bees’ nest and is captured. He was first captured as an adult bird almost exactly six years ago. Since then he has roamed our study site, contributing generously to a number of datasets. Fame has not gone to his head.

A new dry season

A new dry season

Dom, Jessica and David travel to Mariri for a six-week field trip working alongside our honey-hunter colleagues Mele, Carvalho and Musaji (above). Together they focused on ringing the honeyguide population. The Niassa Reserve was extremely dry, but the leafless trees allow easier observations of honeyguides while they guide.

Antonio joins us from Gorongosa

Antonio Ngovene joins us for several weeks as a field intern at the Niassa Reserve, taking a break from his MSc research at the Edward O Wilson Laboratory of Biodiversity at Gorongosa National Park, on the biodiversity role of the coffee plantations on Mount Gorongosa.

Jessica and Dauda tour Niassa visiting 13 honey-hunter communities

Jessica and Dauda tour Niassa visiting 13 honey-hunter communities

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.

New season of fieldwork begins

New season of fieldwork begins

David arrives in Niassa at its most glorious time of the year (the end of the rains) and together with the team is able to celebrate two years of continuous data collection This continues to go strong.

Honeyguides in Johannesburg

Thank you to BirdLife South Africa for the wonderful honour of their award of the Gill Memorial Medal to Claire for ‘lifetime contributions to ornithology in southern Africa’, at their AGM in Johannesburg. Honeyguides feature prominently Claire’s award talk, entitled “Parasites, mutualists and altruists”.

Thank you and farewell, Orlando!

Thank you and farewell, Orlando!

Our colleague Orlando Ncuela moves on to an exciting career opportunity in Lichinga, after nearly two years working with us as local data manager at Mariri Environmental Centre. Asante sana, Orlando, for your meticulous and dedicated work – we greatly appreciate it.

Thank you, AOS and ASAB!

Congrats to Jessica for winning grants from the American Ornithological Society (AOS) and the Association for Animal Behaviour (ASAB) research grants to fund mapping honey-hunter culture across Niassa Reserve. Thank you, AOS and ASAB!

Dr Jessica van der Wal joins the team

Dr Jessica van der Wal joins the team

Jessica van der Wal joins the project as a postdoc based at the University of Cape Town. Jessica recently completed her PhD investigating the foraging ecology of the New Caledonian crow. Here she is at Niassa with fellow postdoc Dom Cram, and field data manager Orlando Ncuela.

Thank you, BES!

Congrats to Dom for securing a British Ecological Society (BES) grant to investigate the factors influencing the honeyguide’s decision whether to guide human honey-hunters or scrounge a free wax meal. Thank you, BES, for your support!

Claire joins the Gorongosa MSc class

Claire joins the Gorongosa MSc class

Claire travelled from Niassa to central Mozambique to carry out a module on research design and research proposal writing with the MSc class in conservation biology at the Edward O. Wilson Laboratory of Biodiversity at Gorongosa National Park. A wonderful and stimulating week – thank you Antonio, Lorena and Camilo (above looking over the Gorongosa floodplain) as well as Amina, Gold, Marcio and Victor, and Berta and team for your invitation.

A productive dry season and a new team member

A productive dry season and a new team member

Dry season fieldwork in the Niassa Reserve. Dom, Claire, David and the field team (including Iahaia “Mele” Buanachique and Carvalho Issa Nanguar, here with some helmet-shrike bycatch) are joined by Jessica van der Wal.

Honeyguides at the Zoological Society of London

Claire shares some of our honeyguide research findings so far in the Zoological Society of London’s 2018 Stamford Raffles Lecture entitled ‘Collaborators and con-artists: coevolution as an engine of biodiversity’. Thank you to the ZSL for the honour of this wonderful opportunity to share the fascination of honeyguides.

“Red-over-red” still thriving!

“Red-over-red” still thriving!

The legendary “red-over-red” honeyguide male is captured again. We recreate the photo of him and our colleague Orlando Yassene that was on the front page of the New York Times.

Dr Dominic Cram joins the team

Dr Dominic Cram joins the team

Dom Cram joins the project as an ERC postdoc based at the University of Cambridge. Dom’s previous post-doc work investigated cooperation in Kalahari Meerkats. Timm Hoffman, eminent landscape ecologist from the University of Cape Town, joins us as well. Dom and Timm bond on a particularly gruelling Land Rover journey to the field site. Wet season travel! Dom is rewarded with dozens of honeyguide captures, and Timm with stunning Sterculia trees. Here are Timm, our Mariri colleague Rachide Herculano, David, Claire and Dom, and Malangaranga Mountain in the distance.

A field trip to Niassa via the Sandawe community of Tanzania

A field trip to Niassa via the Sandawe community of Tanzania

Claire and David travel to Tanzania for fieldwork, en route to Niassa for further field experiments. They drive from David’s hometown of Iringa to Kondoa where they make an exploratory trip, along with Brian Wood, to explore the remaining Sandawe honey-hunting culture. Brian is an anthropologist who has worked extensively with the Hadza people, and this short trip was a fabulous source of stimulating ideas and time spent doing interviews and honey-hunting.

Honeyguides at ‘The Biology and Economics of Mutualisms’

Claire shares some of our honeyguide research findings so far in a plenary talk at a workshop on ‘The Biology and Economics of Mutualisms’ at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, in Plön, Germany. Her talk, co-authored with David Lloyd-Jones and Brian Wood, is entitled ‘The natural history of human-animal mutualism’. Thank you, Chaitanya, Jorge, Maren and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology team for organising a wonderfully stimulating meeting, and for your invitation.

“Red-over-red” strikes again!

“Red-over-red” strikes again!

The incomparable “red-over-red” male is captured again! He is a large individual and an enthusiastic guide, and quickly becoming a regular character on fieldwork. Our colleague Orlando Yassene holds “red-over-red” for the third time in four years.

Dry season fieldwork at the Niassa Reserve

Dry season fieldwork at the Niassa Reserve

James St Clair joins David, Claire (at right in photo above) and the honey-hunter team for a two month field season at the Niassa Reserve – many birds ringed and camera traps set. Orlando Ncuela (centre, with binoculars, in photo above) joins the team as local data manager, coordinating the honey-hunter’s data collection, and bringing with him years of experience at Niassa working as a research assistant to our colleague Agostinho Jorge.

Fieldwork with Brian Wood and the Hadza community

Claire and Brian Wood from Yale University and the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology together carry out experiments in Tanzania with the Hadza people and their local honeyguides. Like the Yao communities we work with in Mozambique, the Hadza are expert honey-hunters. A fascinating and productive month. Thank you, Brian and thank you to the marvellous team of honey-hunters we worked with.

New research directions in the Niassa Reserve

New research directions in the Niassa Reserve

David Lloyd-Jones joins the project, travels to the Niassa Reserve with Claire, and spends the field season doing audio recordings of honey-hunts, testing out trapping methods, while also building relationships with honey-hunters for long-term data collection. Here David, Musaji and Claire search for Taita Falcons near Mariri Mountain.

Thank you, ERC!

Thank you, ERC!

European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant awarded to support our project for five years from mid-2017. Claire receives the news while carrying out fieldwork in the Niassa Reserve and is able to celebrate together with the honey-hunter field team. We are all thrilled! Thank you to the ERC for their wonderful support.

An intense dry season of fieldwork at Niassa

An intense dry season of fieldwork at Niassa

Claire and the honey-hunter team spend six weeks at Niassa capturing and radio-tracking honeyguides, and carrying out behavioural experiments. “Red-over-red” sports his radio antenna with poise.

Niassa’s honeyguides and honey-hunters in Science

Our first paper on honeyguide-human mutualism is published, co-authored by Claire together with Keith Begg and Colleen Begg. In it, we demonstrate experimentally that humans and wild honeyguides communicate with one another during their cooperative pursuit of bees’ nests. This research is covered by newspapers around the world, even briefly deposing Donald Trump from the front page of the New York Times.

Exciting beginnings at the Niassa National Reserve

Exciting beginnings at the Niassa National Reserve

First capture of the world-famous “red-over-red” male greater honeyguide, by Claire and Orlando Yassene, during an exploratory field trip hosted by the wonderful Mariri Environmental Centre. This honeyguide individual received two red rings on his left leg, before a brief photo shoot. The resulting images of “red-over-red” and Orlando were later published in newspapers across the world.