French Crows Pick Up Litter For Food
There is a fascinating article on the Independent website about how crows have been trained to pick up cigarette butts and other liter at the Puy du Fou historical theme park in France. Essentially, the six crows being used fly around the park picking up trash and then deposit it in containers, which dispense food that the crows like in return.
These working crows are rooks, a type of bird noted for its intelligence and enjoyment of solving problems. Rooks also generally enjoy interacting with people, which is a good trait for any employee at a theme park. Magpies were also considered for the project because of their similar problem-solving abilities, but in the end the park decided to go with the rooks because of their superior strength and motivation. Because crows are excellent at developing relationships with humans through purposeful play, they are an excellent bird to get this particular trash-collection job done.
The management of the park say that they are not only tackling to practical problem of cleaning up trash but also trying to prove the point that different species can contribute to the improvement of the environment. The project followed a study showing that crows have the ability to modify the size of paper tokens in order to use them in vending machines in return for food. So far, the project has generated an excellent buzz in the media and should lead to more human visitors to the park.
Personally, I think that this is a great development. The crows are given a stable job in return for steady food, and if they weren't happy with the arrangement they'd simply fly away. Some people may argue that humans should just pick up their own trash to begin with, and there's something to be said for that argument, but this project could be the led to many other fruitful partnerships between humans and animals.
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