Humans are notoriously bad at throwing away our own trash — apparently so bad that animals are picking up the slack.
Puy du Fou theme park in Les Epesses, France, has trained rooks, which are close relatives of crows and ravens, to pick up trash that visitors might leave behind. While the park said it doesn’t have particularly dirty patrons, it was a way to show off how human-animal relations can make the world a better and cleaner place.
“The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean,” Nicolas de Villiers, the head of the park, told AFP news agency, saying it was also about showing “that nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment.”
Villiers said rooks are a good fit for this because they are “particularly intelligent” and “like to communicate with humans and establish a relationship through play.”
Six rookie rooks started their cleanup duty on Aug. 13, according to AFP. The trained birds deliver trash to a small receptacle that rewards them with a treat when they insert an item.
Puy du Fou, which is a historical theme park, already has experience training birds:
Plus, the idea of birds picking up trash isn’t a new idea. A Netherlands-based start-up called Crowded Cities last year created a device that trained crows to pick up cigarette butts in exchange for a treat from a vending machine-type dispenser.
Researchers still have work to do before this becomes a widespread phenomenon, including making sure there are no ill health effects on the birds picking up cigarette butts.
[h/t Mental Floss]