African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

Ricardo Guta

Ricardo Guta


I have always had very diverse interests in nature which trace back to my childhood. These interests later landed me in Gorongosa National Park, where I participated in the very first Biodiversity Survey conducted by a team of national and international scientists. Later I became a member of the scientific team, working in the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory (EOWL) in Gorongosa as a research technician focussing on the documentation of insect biodiversity. That experience aroused my interest in understanding insect biology, evolution, and interactions with other organisms. 

My educational background is in agriculture and livestock from the Instituto Agrário de Chimoio in Mozambique, where I gained experience in crop and animal production, which enabled me to launch a project entitled Animal Protection and Health (PROTECSA) in 2012, whose main goal is to provide technical support to local communities to improve health, food and reproductive management of their livestock. I have also worked as a teacher in one of the community Institutes, and as a technician with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This in turn led me to enrol for a Biological Science Course degree at the Universidade Lúrio in Mozambique. For my research project, I studied the diversity and ectoparasitic load of grasshoppers in Quirimbas National Park. I am currently studying towards a MSc in Conservation Biology at the University of Cape Town and for my thesis, I am studying the phylogeography of flightless spring katydids in the Greater Cape Floristic Region. In 2022 I joined the African Honeyguides as an expert entomologist. My overriding experience in ecology, biogeography, systematics, macrophotography, and conservation of insects, as well as my entomology background, will come in handy in this project.

Ricardo tragically passed away on 1 December 2022. Ricardo’s legacy lives on in our team as we remember his joy and optimism, and his remarkable capacity to bring people together. Please visit tributes to Ricardo on this website, the FitzPatrick Institute, and Gorongosa National Park.

Research focus

My role within the African Honeyguides Project is to better understand the effect of human-honeyguide mutualism on honeybee behaviour and ecology, and pollination. Honey-hunting is considered a major threat to wild bee populations in Asia and has never been evaluated in Africa. This study is extremely relevant, especially in Niassa Special Reserve, where this rare remarkable cooperative relationship still thrives. To harvest the bees’ nest, smoke is often used to subdue the bees. However, not much is known about the effects of honey-hunting on honeybees and pollination.


Peer-reviewed publications




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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