African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

The Team

Dominic Cram

Dr Dominic Cram

Postdoc, University of Cambridge

Rion Cuthill

Rion Cuthill

Researcher, University of Cape Town

v

Ricardo Guta

Researcher, University of Cape Town

Amana Kilawi Othman

Amana Kilawi

MSc student, University of Cape Town

Eliupendo Alaitetei Laltaika

Eliupendo Alaitetei Laltaika

PhD student, University of Cape Town
David Lloyd-Jones

David Lloyd-Jones

PhD student, University of Cape Town

Claire Spottiswoode

Professor Claire Spottiswoode

Project leader, University of Cambridge and University of Cape Town

Jessica van der Wal

Dr Jessica van der Wal

Postdoc, University of Cape Town

Projecto Sego Leadership Team

Iahaia “Mele” Buanachique

Iahaia “Mele” Buanachique

Mele is a resident of Mbamba village and been a honey-hunter since his early teens. He gets involved in night honey-harvests from baobab trees as well as following honeyguides and harvesting honey in the day. He has helped us with field work (especially following honeyguides, trapping honeyguides, and radio tracking) since 2017, when he was also the winner of our annual prize for the best data collector.

Musaji Muamedi

Musaji Muamedi

Musaji was born and raised in Nkuti village. He has honey-hunted for over a decade and has worked closely with us since 2015, when he helped extensively with playback experiments. Over the years he has helped with numerous field experiments, honeyguide trapping, and camera trapping. His extraordinary ability to spot bees’ nest is much admired. He has been part of our leadership team since its inception in 2017.

Carvalho Issa Nanguar

Carvalho Issa Nanguar

Carvalho was born and raised in Mbamba village and learnt to honey-hunt in his teens from his step father, Seliano Rucunua. He often honey-hunts together with his family; one of his wives is also a talented honey-hunter, and he and she both started working with the project in 2018. Since then Carvalho has helped us with many of our field experiments, in particular with honeyguides trapping and playback transects. 

Seliano Alberto Runcunua

Seliano Alberto Runcunua

Seliano is a life-long ‘professional’ honey-hunter who grew up to the south of Niassa and first moved to Mbamba village to find bees and harvest honey in the expansive woodlands of the reserve. He regularly honey-hunts with his wife, Fatima, who is also part of our team, and his passion for all things honey-hunting is truly infectious. He first started collecting data for the project in 2018 and won our annual prize for the best data collector in 2019, when he also joined our leadership group.

Projecto Sego Data Collection Team

Honey hunter team

Honey-hunting research network

Anap Ishaku Afan

Anap Ishaku Afan

I am a conservation biologist, ornithologist and nature enthusiast. I am passionate about avian species, ecology and biodiversity conservation. I developed this passion during my internship at the A.P Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), in Nigeria where I also completed my MSc in Conservation Biology and currently work as a Research Associate. My research interest focuses on behavioral ecology as I find human-wildlife mutualism fascinating. In early 2022, I won a Career Development Bursary from the British Ornithological Union (BOU) to help realise a project to investigate the state of honey-hunting and human-honeyguide mutualism in Nigeria. As part of this opportunity, I will be spending some time at the University of Cape Town to write up my findings.

George Malembo M'manga

George Malembo M’manga 

I am an MSc student in Forestry and Environmental Management at Mzuzu University in northern Malawi. I am passionate about ecology, ornithology, environmental education, and statistics. I am also an active member of the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi. For my MSc thesis, I will be investigating honeyguides, honey-hunting and the current state of human-honeyguide mutualism in northern Malawi, made possible by a research grant from the Nyika Vwaza (UK) Trust. I speak Chichewa, Tumbuka and English, which will facilitate interviews. My project will be supervised by Dr Jessica van der Wal, Dr Tiwonge Mzumara-Gawa (Malawi University of Science and Technology, Malawi) and Dr Lusayo Mwabumba (Mzuzu University, Malawi).

Wiro-Bless Kamboe

Wiro-Bless Kamboe

I am a wildlife biologist, and currently a teaching and research assistant in the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Management, at the University for Development Studies in Ghana. Growing up, I always loved interacting with animals, and had an interest in animal welfare. This inspired and motivated me to pursue a BSc in Range and Wildlife Management at the University for Development Studies in Ghana. In collaboration with the African Honeyguides Research Project, I am currently surveying and describing remaining honey-hunting cultures in Ghana, and investigating the relationship people have with honeyguides. I am also interested to understand how increased popularity of beekeeping has affected honey-hunting over the years. I hope to pursue a MSc Cape Town in 2023 on this topic.

Collaborators

Professor Sally Archibald

School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

We work with Sally on understanding the landscape consequences of the honeyguide-human mutualism, in particular via its impact on fire regimes.

Visit Sally’s page…

Dr Colleen Begg & Keith Begg

Niassa Carnivore Project, Mozambique

We have collaborated closely with Colleen and Keith on understanding reciprocal communication between humans and honeyguides, and they and their team at the Mariri Environmental Centre continue to crucially inspire, advise and support many aspects of our research.

Read more here…

Professor Robin Crewe

Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, South Africa

We work with Robin and his team on understanding the influence of the honeyguide-human mutualism on bee ecology.

Visit Robin’s page here…

Dr Pietro d’Amelio

FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa

We work with Pietro on bioacoustic analyses to understand cultural variation in the signals human give to honeyguides.

Visit Pietro’s page here…

Celestino Dauda

Niassa Carnivore Project, Mozambique

We work with Dauda on mapping honey-hunting culture in communities throughout the Niassa National Reserve.

Visit Celestino’s page here…

Dr Lynn Dicks

Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK

We work with Lynn on understanding the influence of the honeyguide-human mutualism on pollination ecosystem services.

Visit Lynn’s page here…

Professor Robert Fleischer & Dr Carly Muletz Wolz

Center for Conservation Genomics, Smithsonian Institution, USA

We work with Robert, Carly and their team on understanding how honeyguides acquire their unusual ability to digest wax.

Visit Robert and Carly’s pages…

Professor Timm Hoffman

Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa

We work with Timm on understanding the landscape consequences of the honeyguide-human mutualism, in particular via its impact on tree ecology.

Visit Timm’s page here…

Dr Anne Kandler & Dr Laurel Fogarty

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

We work with Anne and Laurel on mathematical modelling of social learning and cultural evolution in honeyguide-human mutualism.

Visit Anne’s page here and Laurel’s page here…

Hermenegildo Matimele

National Herbarium, Maputo, Mozambique

We work with Hermenegildo on understanding the landscape consequences of the honeyguide-human mutualism, in particular via its impact on tree ecology.

Visit Hermenegildo’s page here…

Professor Timm Hoffman

Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa

We work with Timm on understanding the landscape consequences of the honeyguide-human mutualism, in particular via its impact on tree ecology.

Visit Timm’s page here…

Dr Celiwe Ngcamphalala

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

We work with Celiwe on understanding the current state of human-honeyguide mutualism in the Kingdom of Eswatini

Visit Celiwe’s page here…

Dr Colleen Seymour

South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town, South Africa

We work with Colleen on understanding the influence of the honeyguide-human mutualism on pollination ecosystem services.

Visit Colleen’s page here…

Dr Brian Wood

Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany

We collaborate closely with Brian in many aspects of our work, including understanding the impact on the honeyguide-human mutualism of cultural variation in human signals in Mozambique and Tanzania, and the mutualism’s impact on human foraging ecology.

Visit Brian’s website here…

Past Colleagues

Orlando Ncuela

Projecto Sego local data manager

Antonio Ngovene

Intern, Edward O Wilson Laboratory of Biodiversity, Gorongosa National Park

Visit Antonio’s page here…

Dr James St Clair

Postdoc, University of Cambridge

Visit James’s page here…

News

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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