Exploration of Human-Bird Relationships: Oromo Proverbs Associated with the Northern Ground-Hornbill in Ethiopia

32 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2021 Publication Status: Published

See all articles by Addisu Asefa

Addisu Asefa

Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority


Knowledge and understanding about the cultural values of animal species aids to make informed conservation decisions. However, such information is lacking for many species globally due to resource constraints to collect ethnobiological data using traditional ethnographic survey approaches. In this study, a netnography research approach was employed to identify and interpret the meanings and sociocultural functions of Ethiopian Oromo society’s proverbs associated with different features of the Northern Ground-hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus), a vulnerable bird species. On 19 March 2019, a photo of the Northern Ground-hornbill and textual questions asking the local name and Oromo proverbs associated with the bird was posted on a popular Facebook community page, which then was shared by 261 Facebook users during the data collection peroid. Data used for this study were therefore text comments posted by Facebook users in response to this post. Data colletion involved both observation and participation techniques. In total, 332 distnict text comment posts from 59 Facebook pages (229 comments from the original page post and 93 from 58 Facebook pages who shared the original post) were downloaded on 27 December 2019 and analyzed. A thematic content analysis approach was applied to code and categorize the important concepts elucidating proverbial uses associated with the bird. Then, hermeneutic interpretive approach was followed to interpret the meanings and functions of the proverbs identified. In total, 16 Oromo proverbs associated with four Hornbill’s features (song, social interaction, habit and morphology) were identified and described. The proverbs appeared to have significant sociocultural functions, such as reflecting Oromo customary practices; correcting misbehavior/malpractices and settlement of disagreements; and reinforcement of solidarity and tolerances. These findings suggest that the Hornbill is a culturally significant bird species to the Oromo society where proverbs related to the species are used in constructing healthy social relationships. In conclusion, results of this study contribute to our understanding of the ways in which humans use a bird species’ traits in their daily communications.

Keywords: Bucorvus abyssinicus, netnography, animal proverbs, Oromo Gada System, Facebook, social media

Suggested Citation

Asefa, Addisu, Exploration of Human-Bird Relationships: Oromo Proverbs Associated with the Northern Ground-Hornbill in Ethiopia. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3770521 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3770521

Addisu Asefa (Contact Author)

Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority ( email )

Addis Ababa

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