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Crows as Garbage Collectors?

Let’s crow about crows. They are smart birds. In Australia they have learned to feast on the repugnant cane toads that other animals avoid because of the toxin they secret from from glands above their eyes. Crows are not deterred; they turn the toads over and peck away at the creatures’ neck and feast on their insides. Amazingly, these birds also use sticks as tools to get at food and are intelligent enough to be trainable.

A couple of Dutch guys had the idea of turning crows into garbage collectors, specifically to pick up the most littered substance in the world, cigarette butts! These are not only unsightly, but contain cigarette residues like nicotine, polycylic aromatics, arsenic and heavy metals that can end up in waterways. The idea is to train the crows to pick up the butts and drop them in a contraption that dispenses food in return for a butt.

So far, this is only on the drawing board and the inventors of “Crowbar” may yet end up eating crow if it turns out that the crows themselves can get sick by picking up the butts. Of course, the real solution to the cigarette butt problem is to get people to butt out. That’s something to crow about.

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