African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

Lailat Guta

Rion Cuthill


Lailat is an agronomist by training, with over half a decade’s worth of experience working with small, medium and large-scale farmers in Mozambique. As a technical assistant in an agricultural inputs distributor, she is enabling farmers to enhance their productivity while promoting the correct use and management of pesticides, for the safety of the environment and people. To her, getting to assist and influence farmers on their decisions regarding what solutions to apply, how frequently and how much is a privilege. Her efforts have led to several hundreds of farmers creating more employment opportunities for youth, thereby contributing to the social strength and economic capacity of Mozambique.


Research focus

As a researcher and now MSc student on the Honeyguide Research Project, Lailat is testing whether bee pollination services to small-scale crops are resilient to the harvesting of wild bees’ nests in cooperation with honeyguides. She is doing so using field experiments in the Niassa Special Reserve in Mozambique, in collaboration with small-scale farmers and honey-hunters from the Mbamba village community.


Honey-hunting Research Network workshop

The Honey-hunting Research Network (coordinated by Jessica van der Wal) met in Cape Town for a very enjoyable week of analysing and comparing interview data from honey-hunting cultures across Africa, painting a picture of the human cultural variation relevant to honeyguides, and its uncertain future on a rapidly changing continent. Joining in person were Wiro-Bless Kamboe, Rochelle Mphetlhe, George M’manga, Sanele Nhlabatsi, Daniella Mhangwana, Celiwe Ngcamphalala, Claire Spottiswoode and Jessica van der Wal. Thank you to the Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Fund for funding our get-together!

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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.

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