Humans interact with animals on a daily basis. For thousands of years we have trained dogs, horses and other creatures. These animals have been domesticated to help us in or around our homes. Humans working alongside wild animals is far more rare. However, there are many tribal communities that have made a relationship with these animals. It leads us to wonder how wild animals and humans can help each other survive. It also makes us see the value of this teamwork in an urbanising Africa.
THE YAO TRIBE AND HONEYGUIDES
The Yao Tribe of Mozambique have learned to work alongside honeyguides to collect food. Honeyguides are birds that feed on grubs and beeswax. They are called ‘honeyguides’ because of the way that they lead honey-hunters to beehives. This teamwork is mutually beneficial, meaning both humans and birds gain something from working together.
The tribesmen and birds work together by recognising each other in the wild. This happens mostly through recognising the birds’ calls once the honeyguides spot a beehive. However, it is not just the birds that make these sounds. The tribesmen learn a unique call that is passed down through the generations of the tribe. This call can actually attract honeyguides to them, to help them find beehives at their will. When tribesmen use this special call, the chances of them finding a beehive increases from 17% to 54%. Therefore, the Yao tribesmen can get the honeyguides to lead them to honey on command.
The honeyguides can also make the tribesmen follow them on command by their calls. Once they discover a nest, they will find the tribesmen and begin making the calls. The tribesmen recognise these and reply. The honeyguides then fly towards the beehive, leading the tribesmen. The tribesmen proceed to crack open the hives and take honey for themselves. As the hives are now open, the birds can eat the beeswax left behind.
THREATS TO HUMAN-ANIMAL INTERACTIONS
In many places in Africa, such teamwork is being threatened. This is because of issues that threaten wild animals, such as deforestation. This is when trees are cut down on a large scale. This leads to wild animals’ habitats, meaning their homes, are being destroyed. In most Sub-Saharan African countries, the rate of deforestation is more than the global annual average of 0.8%. Therefore, African forests are being heavily affected by deforestation.
One reason for this is Africa’s reliance on wood as a fuel for cooking and heating. In Sub-Saharan Africa, firewood and brush supply 52% of all energy sources.
Another reason is that forests are often cleared by farmers to make room for crops and domestic animals. Land can also be cleared to make room for towns, roads and mines. Population increase means that more towns are needed. Indeed, the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double in just over 20 years. Mozambique and Angola are amongst the Sub-Saharan African countries expected to grow most by 2023. This means even more deforestation will occur.
A final reason for African deforestation is commercial logging. This is the cutting down of trees to use for building materials.
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF HUMAN-ANIMAL INTERACTION?
With growing deforestation, wild animals’ habitats are being destroyed. With the destruction of natural landscapes, many tribal communities are also being forced from their traditional lands. These factors make relationships like those between the Yao tribe and honeyguides rarer every day.
The question we are left with is how much we value these human and animal relationships. If deforestation continues at the same rate, birds like honeyguides may lose their habitat. The Yao tribesmen may be forced to abandon the honey hunting tradition. The unique birdcall of the Yao tribesmen has been passed down from father to son. Without these traditions, tribal Africa may one day lose its sense of its cultural individuality. This means that all the things that make Africa stand out from other countries will be lost. The interaction between man and the wild is particularly unique in Africa. To lose it would be to lose a piece of Africa itself.