The crows are on display four days a week, and otherwise fly around or do whatever birds do when they are not picking up bits of trash in the park.
Oh, to be a crow.
Maligned as scavengers that torment their dead brethren. Portrayed as aerial killers in the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock classic, “The Birds.”
In France, though, the wily crow is getting a makeover. Puy du Fou, a historical theme park in the Loire region about four hours from Paris, has trained six crows to pick up cigarette butts and bits of trash and dump them in a box.
The theme park’s owners would rather have humans properly dispose of their own candy wrappers and cigarettes. The crows are part of an educational campaign to prompt the ecologically minded to take their rubbish with them.
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“We want to educate people not to throw their garbage on the ground,” said Nicolas de Villiers, the president of Puy du Fou. That is especially true of smokers who casually flick lit cigarettes and extinguish them with the tips of their shoes. As de Villiers put it, if crows can be schooled to pick up trash, why can’t humans?
“Sometimes it is good to make people feel a little bit guilty,” he said.
Christophe Gaborit, who manages the theme park’s Academy of Falconry, trained the six rooks, which are members of the crow family and were raised at Puy du Fou, the second-largest theme park in France. (Disneyland Paris is No. 1.)
Each morning, Gaborit brings his crows and a set of wooden boxes to the park’s entrance so visitors can see the feathered creatures in action, de Villiers said. The crow’s task is simple. Each box has two compartments, and when a crow deposits a piece of paper or trash in a slot, a drawer is opened to reveal a treat — bird food, mostly.
So far, the crows seem to have a cushy gig. They are on display four days a week, and otherwise fly around or do whatever birds do when they are not picking up cigarette butts with their beaks. “We don’t want to make them machines,” de Villiers said. “They don’t play the game if they work too much.”
Besides, he said with a laugh, “They are French. We have to be careful with the unions.”