Repository logo

Awer Honey-Hunting Culture With Greater Honeyguides in Coastal Kenya

Published version

Change log


van der Wal, Jessica E. M. 
Gedi, Isa I. 
Spottiswoode, Claire N. 


The remarkable mutualism between humans and greater honeyguides (Indicator indicator) is known still to thrive in only a few places in Africa. Here, we report on the honey-hunting culture of the marginalised Awer people in Kenya, historically a hunter-gatherer culture who today practise a mixed economy including significant amounts of foraging for wild foods. As part of a larger effort to document cross-cultural honey-hunting traditions in Africa, we interviewed six Awer honey-hunters to document their cultural practices. The interviewees reported that they depend on wild honey as a source of income, and that they readily seek the cooperation of honeyguides. Honey-hunting skills and the calls/whistles used to communicate with honeyguides are learnt from their fathers and other elders in village. The best time to honey-hunt is in the months following the big rains (August–December), when interviewees go out honey-hunting once a week on average. Honeyguides are not actively rewarded with wax, as it is believed that once a bird is fed it will not cooperate again for some time, and therefore after the honey harvest is complete, all remaining wax comb is buried. Honey-hunting practices are declining in this region, which interviewees attributed to drought and a lack of interest by the youth. These findings expand our understanding of how human-honeyguide mutualism persists across a range of human cultural variation.



Conservation Science, Indicator indicator, honeyguide, mutualism, humans, cultural heritage

Is Part Of


Frontiers Media S.A.