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.
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!
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”, 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Claire wrote an article in African Birdlife magazine summarising our honeyguide research so far.
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.
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.
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.
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.