The Company Teaching Crows To Clean Up Cigarette Butts

Samuel Reason | November 14th, 2018

We often comment on how polluted the world is and that no one takes enough incentives to throw things in the trash correctly. Many companies around the world are trying to help governments create recycling programs that work, and startup company is even employing some friendly crows to do the work for them. And why not?

When you look around your local park you will see hundreds of wrappers, plastic bottles or cans just thrown about carelessly – not to mention the hundreds upon hundreds of cigarette butts thrown everywhere. And they don’t degrade quickly either, it takes over a decade. So a team of Dutch scientists has come together to make an ingenious clean up happen: by enlisting crows to do the job for them.

Crows are actually very intelligent, despite their little brains they can think and tinker: crows in the wild have been spotted using rods to fish out insects or larvae from tree bark. And they normally solve puzzles if they know they will be receiving a reward, one crow nicknamed 007 was able to complete an eight-step puzzle for his food reward in one study.

So the Dutch team has set about to use them in their clean-up crew, teaching crows to pick up cigarette butts for a peanut reward. The designers created the Crowbar, a device that will reward the crow with a peanut if they successfully drop a cigarette butt inside it. When the crow drops in the filter, it will be quickly scanned by a camera, which decides if the crow should receive a reward or not.

Though they have not reached a stage of testing yet, the idea looks very promising. It remains to see how crows will react to these devices, will the dangerous cigarette butts damage their health? Will crows start to fly around smokers ready to grab the cigarette butt? Questions do remain around the idea, but hopefully, it can make a difference.

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