Six crows employed as "garbage collectors" at French theme park
Six 'particularly intelligent' birds were selected to be trained for the scheme to keep the historical park in Vendee clean.
A historical theme park in France has come up with a rather unconventional garbage collecting plan. Winding the clock back to the golden ages, an elite crew of six highly trained crows will be deployed to assist the staff at Puy du Fou to clean up the ramparts of its replica medieval citadel to its model thatch-roofed Viking village.
Crows are one of the most intelligent birds on the planet, especially rooks, who are cousins to ravens, jackdaws, and magpies. Historically, they have been known to use tools, recognize faces, and pass on their learned behavior to other crows. However, over a million incidents have been recorded in which crows attack people, with one researcher mapping quite a few of them to horrifying effect, reported Vice.
But their frightening and intelligent traits only make them relatable to us, human beings, as a species.
If a crow deposits a piece of trash into a small box placed in France's Puy du Fou park then a nugget of bird food will pop out. https://t.co/BcLUpcTQd4— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) August 11, 2018
And hence there is nothing stopping them from becoming productive members of human society as well - in this case, as trained garbage collectors. That said, the project taken up at the 140-acre Puy du Fou would be the largest in history.
It was technologist Josh Klein, who first popularized the concept of training crows in a TED talk based on his thesis at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Klein is known to have previously designed corvid-training systems in small, closed environments like his Brooklyn apartment, albeit with limited success.
Speaking exclusively to Vice, he said, “The difficulties in this kind of proposition are in building a machine to identify garbage versus anything else, and in convincing corvids to use it."
Having said that, as of now, the park has not responded to requests for more information about their new workforce's training program, and so the process behind preparing Puy du Fou’s garbage birds is still a mystery.
Even Klein tried to contact the authorities to offer help on the project, but he is yet to hear back from them. Nonetheless, he has a theory of his own:
“The key element, in my opinion, is that they're using trained birds. So really they could have something as simple as a bucket and a human trainer with treats; that would illustrate that rooks are smart enough to identify and fetch trash in exchange for a reward and potentially get people thinking differently about this, which is totally laudable,” he said.
In a conversation with AFP, Nicolas de Villiers, the president of Puy du Fou, said he will not be completely relying on crows to do the job. According to him, incorporating them in the garbage collection force is more of a symbolic achievement than a fool-proof, one-hundred-percent feasible alternative.
"The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean,” he said. “Nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment."
Back in 2008, Klein told NPR: "Don't hate the crows. Just let them save you."