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.


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



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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