African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

The Team

Dominic Cram

Dr Dominic Cram

Lecturer, Edinburgh Napier University

Rion Cuthill

Rion Cuthill

Researcher, University of Cape Town

Lailat Guta

Lailat Guta

Researcher, University of Cape Town

Wiro-Bless Kamboe

Wiro-Bless Kamboe

MSc student, University of Cape Town

Amana Kilawi Othman

Amana Kilawi

MSc graduate, 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

Daniella Mhangwana

Daniella Mhangwana

MSc student, University of Cape Town

Susan Miller

Dr Susan Miller

Project Manager and Researcher, 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.

David Garakva

David Garakva

I am an MSc student at the University of N’gaoundéré in Cameroon. I have a passion for wildlife conservation and behavioural ecology. For my MSc project, I am studying the current state of human-honeyguide mutualism in the Adamaoua region of Cameroon. To do this, I am interviewing honey-hunters and beekeepers, and am attending some honey-hunts. I am supervised by Dr Mazi Sanda from the University of N’gaoundéré and Dr Jessica van der Wal from the Honeyguide Research Project, and funded by a Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Grant.

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).

Rochelle Mphetlhe

Rochelle Mphetlhe

My love for wildlife began as a young adolescent. I loved art and painting outdoor scenes, which eventually ignited my love for the outdoor space, nature and wildlife. But as with many young Africans, I only discovered conservation as a career at a later stage in life, but early enough to start a career in this field. And so I started a journey in a Masters degree at the University of Cape Town at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, working on a project to quantify raptor abundance in my home country of Botswana. I developed a passion for raptors during my fieldwork and for community engagement as I experienced working with remote communties in the Kalahari region of Botswana. In Cape Town, I was fortunate to develop an interest in honeyguide-human mutualism. My current research will investigate the state of this relationship in northern Botswana, funded by a Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Grant.

Sanele Nhlabatsi

Sanele Nhlabatsi

I am a behavioral ecologist and a recent MSc graduate from the University of Eswatini. My interests lie especially in the field of ornithology, but I have also worked briefly with small mammals. I have a strong passion for ecology and conservation biology, which started early in my undergraduate years where I first got exposed to this while doing field courses and working as an assistant on various avian projects. I have been working with Dr Jessica van der Wal and Dr Celiwe Ngcamphalala since May 2022 on investigating human-honeyguide cooperation and the remaining honey-hunting cultures in Eswatini, collecting data by conducting interviews with local honey-hunters. I am continuing this work in 2023, as well as writing up our findings for publication as a team, I presented this work at the Interspecies Cooperation Workshop at the University of Cambridge in July 2023. This work is funded by a Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Grant. Outside of this work, I am working on securing funding for a PhD position.

Faroukou Wabi

Faroukou Wabi

I am an agronomist by training, and graduated with a Masters degree in Development and Management of Natural Resources from the University of Abomey-Calavi in ​​Benin. I also have a training diploma in the fight against environmental crime issued by the University of Senghor, in collaboration with IUCN’s West and Central Africa Programme. I am a young person passionate about nature, environmental protection issues. I am interested in ecology, biodiversity conservation, ornithology and climate protection. I am currently studying the culture of honey-hunting in Benin, in collaboration with Dr Rodrigue Idohou and Dr Jessica van der Wal, and funded by a Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Grant.

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Collaborators

Dr Yusuf Abdullahi Ahmed, Professor Robin Crewe & Professor Christian Pirk

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

We work with Yusuf, Robin and Christian on understanding the influence of the honeyguide-human mutualism on bee ecology.

Visit Robin’s page here…

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…

Farisayi Dakwa

Independent researcher, South Africa

Farisayi is the Data & Analytics Coordinator of Honey-hunting Research Network.

Visit Farisayi’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 Rodrigue A.F. Idohou

Le Laboratoire de Biomathématiques et d’Estimations Forestières, University in Abomey-Calavi, Benin

We work with Rodrigue on understanding honey-hunting culture in Benin.

Visit Rodrigue’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 Mazi Sanda

Faculty of Science, University of Ngaoundéré, Cameroon

We work with Mazi on understanding the current state of human-honeyguide mutualism in Cameroon. Mazi is an ecologist with a focus on bee research, pollination ecology, ecotoxicology, and apiculture.

Visit Mazi’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

We collaborate closely with Brian on several aspects of communication and culture in human-honeyguide mutualism in eastern Africa.

Visit Brian’s website here…

Past Colleagues

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Ricardo Guta

Researcher, University of Cape Town

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

New paper on human-honeyguide cooperation and communication

A new study from the Honeyguide Research Project shows that Greater Honeyguides learn the distinct calls that honey-hunters in different parts of Africa use to communicate with them, facilitating cooperation between species. Human honey-hunters signal to honeyguides using specialised calls that vary culturally across Africa. The new study shows using field experiments in Mozambique and Tanzania that honeyguides prefer the specialised calls of the local human culture they interact with, compared to those of a foreign culture. This implies that honeyguides can adjust to human cultural diversity, increasing the benefits of cooperation for both people and birds.

read more