African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

Eliupendo Alaitetei Laltaika

Eliupendo Alaitetei Laltaika

Biography

I was born and raised in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. In my childhood I interacted with the forest scenes, wildlife sounds and smells. They were very much a part of my life, and all of them molded my passion and enthusiasm for working in conservation. I served 8 years as a Park Ranger in the Ministry of Nature and Tourism in Tanzania. This included two years as a Biodiversity Technician from the college of African Wildlife Management, Mweka. Following my park ranger career, I went on work in different anti-poaching operations with Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Tanzania Wildlife Authority, as well as provide protection of Rhino conservation. In 2020, I joined the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town as an MSc student in Conservation Biology.

Research focus

My research interest is on the mutualistic interactions between humans and the greater honeyguide in northern Tanzania. Specifically, I plan to document and compare the honey-hunting culture of several coexisting human cultural groups in northern Tanzania who all rely heavily on honey, with a particular focus on the Maasai, as well as the Datoga, Sonja, and Hadzabe people. I plan to investigate the sounds used by these different groups to communicate with honeyguides; to investigate honey-harvesting practices such as the use of means other than fire to subdue bees; and how these and other aspects of honey-hunting culture are shared between generations, and so the future of the bird-human relationship in this part of Africa.

 

News

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.

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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.

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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.

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