An unusual and very interesting project has taken wings in France: birds will be rewarded with food every time they bring a cigarette butt or other rubbish.

Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) belong to the Old World crow family of Corvidae.

It’s still a small-scale project, a proof of concept more than anything else — six birds in a historical theme park in France will be put to work. Their job will be to clean up the trash left behind by inconsiderate tourists, but the project will also have an educational component, showing “that nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment”.

“The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean” but also to show that “nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment”, said Nicolas de Villiers of the Puy du Fou park, in the western Vendee region.

They chose rooks for this job. Rooks belong to the crow family, which have proven to be stunningly intelligent time and time again. Crows are remarkable tool users and creators, being the first non-human animals known to use tools to carry other objects. They’re also known to communicate with humans and attempt to establish relationships through playful activities, which also indicates a remarkable intelligence level.

It’s not yet clear what the reward of the crows will be. Personally, I wish we lived in a world where cleaning up leftover trash wouldn’t be an issue — but since that ideal world is still quite far away, I’m happy to see creative approaches such as this one. Whether or not it will work in the long run remains to be seen, but Mr. Villiers says rooks are fast workers and can fill a small bucket with rubbish in 45 minutes.

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Puy du Fou is a historical theme park, the second most visited park in France after Disneyland. Featuring historical re-enactments and authentic architecture, the park draws some 2 million visitors every year. Now, the birds might represent another side attraction

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