An exploration of cultural beliefs and practices across the Southern Ground-Hornbill's range in Africa

J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Mar 26:10:28. doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-10-28.


Background: This article explores cultural beliefs and practices related to the Southern Ground-Hornbill (SGH) (Bucorvus leadbeateri) in nine southern and east-African countries.

Methods: A qualitative, thematic content-analysis approach was followed. Ninety-eight participants took part in the study. Interviews and group discussions were used as the main data gathering methods. Each interview was digitally recorded and transcribed. Data were analysed by means of thematic content analysis.

Results: The main themes that emerged from the data analysis indicated that beliefs and practices relate to the SGH as being (a) a bringer or signifier of death/destruction/loss/ deprivation, with the bird commonly being regarded as a bad omen of evil spirits and announcer of calamities; (b) a protector against evil spirits, against lightning and against drought; (c) an enabler/causer of altered perceptions, which include remote viewing, foreseeing the future, and creating an illusion; and (d) a timekeeper that announces the beginning and end of a working day and of seasonal changes.

Conclusions: Knowledge about the use of the SGH in cultural practices can contribute to conservation efforts in at least two significant ways: Firstly, beliefs and practices that were identified in this study as having potentially protective consequences for the SGH can now be specifically targeted and strengthened in future interventions. Secondly, destructive beliefs and practices that were identified can now be changed by means of the implementation of an intervention programme in countries where it is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Animals
  • Birds*
  • Culture*