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PROJECTCORVIDS

Through observation we concluded crows are the smartest around us to reach any spot in the city. What if crows can bring small debris, such as plastic and cigarette filters, to one of our feeders to exchange garbage for food?

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH

UKRAINE IN CIGARETTE BUTTS

Cigarette butts are the most common toxic waste (up to 34% of the total waste) and, contrary to popular belief, they do not decompose completely even after 10 years.

According to various estimates, around 1,000,000,000 kg of cigarette butts are discarded in the world as waste (the weight of one cigarette filter is about 0.8 g).

This situation threatens the catastrophe not only for countless helpless animals, but also for people.

Every living organism interacts with each other, but, unfortunately, because of the rapid development of mankind, nature is not ready to interact with us. We remain of the opinion that many animals are pests and can not help us in cleaning our country from debris. But is it true?

THE PROBLEM

Ukraine is one of the seven countries in the world where tobacco is consumed most. According to statistics in 2009, for 9 months on each inhabitant of Ukraine (from a newborn to an adult), there is 1 kilogram of cigarette butts, this is 46 million kilograms of cigarette butts or 46 tons of this garbage, and over the years the number of waste of this category is increasing. At the moment, Ukraine urgently needs innovative solutions in the collection and disposal of cigarette butts.

THE SOLUTION

More than two years we have been training and studying the habits of the first experimental Hooded crow (Corvus cornix) of Project Corvids. Our goal - to teach birds to bring cigarette butts in exchange for a delicacy and at the moment is more than a decisive task. With the help of special feeders made by engineers from Crowded Cities we have already taught the first bird. Now we are working to ensure that this experimental model can transfer its skills to other birds from their social network. We conduct field research with the help of our University Program to track the complex societies of gray crows, with dominance hierarchies and ruling lineages. Among other things, we study their intellect to quantify the amazing aspects of their behavior in rigorous scientific experiments and find out what else these birds can be useful to humanity.

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DID YOU KNOW?

Scientists believe that the New Caledonian crows, anthropoid apes and man are the only living beings who are able not only to use tools, but also to produce them for themselves. So in order to get the larvae, the New Caledonian crows use hook-shaped sticks, which they make themselves, with the help of which they easily get a delicacy from under the bark of a tree. But is it really the only bird that can do this kind of trick? We conducted a series of experiments with the Hooded crow (Corvus Cornix) and were able to refute this opinion. A little hungry, this species of Corvids began to bend the sticks and get food with their help. This proves our theory that the intelligence of the Hooded crows is capable of developing with incredible speed.

THE FASCINATING INTELLIGENCE OF CORVIDS

Corvids were often in the scientific world called "feathered monkeys" and this is not without reason. There is some evidence of obvious similarities in the complex cognition between the corvids, parrots, great apes and delphinids. It is noteworthy that these groups of animals are separated by extensive evolutionary time intervals: the last common ancestor of birds and mammals lived 296 million years ago, the last common ancestor of the corvids and parrots 96 million years ago, about 94 million years separating dolphins from monkeys. Obviously, these animals also differ in the shapes of the body and locomotion. But the main question: what unites these animals?

Most authors note that the brain of these animals is much larger than one might expect from the size of the body. This is often also true in the "higher" areas of the brain, which means that parts of the neurocognitive architecture are similar. Social skills are described as unusually complex: extended copying of behavior, use of deception, high level of social learning and rudiments of culture. 

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Physical skills are also well developed, including innovations and some physical reasoning. Their memory systems are described as unusually developed, scientists compare it as an episodic system in humans. Among these animals, among other things, advanced communication skills were observed. In general, these animals are united by great behavioral flexibility and high ontogenetic adaptability. Some similarities are found in great apes and corvids. Monkeys have a so-called "number neurons" in the multilayered neocortex, due to which they may not be just for numbers, but they do respond to numbers. Similar neurons are noted in the nidopallium caudolaterale of the corvids, which give the corvids the same quality in the understanding of numbers.

Corvids are very trainable. They work well in a team with other individuals of their own kind and quickly master new skills, including collecting specific garbage for the reward subsequently provided. Corvids are also highly adapted to human and environmental influences. The cosmopolitan nature of corvids makes them familiar to people in all corners of the world, which in the future allows information to be transmitted from the bird to the bird and thus help in the garbage collection at the international level. As corvids are intelligent and naturally curious, providing them with a problem in obtaining delicacies, the solution of which will be a cigarette butt, can keep them mentally and physically occupied for long periods of time, which solves the problem with small garbage in Ukraine for not one year.

CROW CULTURES

A group of scientists led by Christian Rutz from the University of St Andrews explored whether social networks of the Corvids can support the spread of instrumental innovations. Using new tracking technology, they explored social networks of wild crows, registering when birds met with each other and for how long. Their study showed that young crows can learn these skills not only from their parents, but also from many unrelated crows in the population. This is an important step in verifying the existence of "crow cultures." Therefore, we are confident that our trained Corvids will be able to transfer a new skill to other birds and help us in collecting cigarette butts and cleaning our country from debris.

CROWS ARE SMART

GET INVOLVED

Donate to help us change Ukraine, find out how you can become a member of our team and share our work with friends.

PROJECT CORVIDS IS A MULTI-YEAR PROJECT AIMED AT REDUCING THE AMOUNT OF CIGARETTE BUTTS THAT IS POLLUTING UKRAINE.

PHOTO ON “THE SOLUTION” BY NICKLAS LARSSON; PHOTO ON “DID YOU KNOW?” BY SIMON WALKER.

USED MATERIALS: DEVELOPMENT AND DESIGN OF THE CROWBAR BY BOB SPIKMAN, RUBEN VAN DER VLEUTEN, SINA KAZEMI

STATISTICAL DATA ON THE NUMBER OF CIGARETTE BUTTS IN UKRAINE BY PROF POLISCHUK N. E. 

AUTOMATED MAPPING OF SOCIAL NETWORKS IN WILD BIRDS BY CHRISTIAN RUTZ, ZACKORY T. BURNS RICHARD JAMES, STEFANIE M.H. ISMAR, JOHN BURT, BRIAN OTIS, JAYSON BOWEN, JAMES J.H. ST CLAIR

INDEPENDENT EVOLUTION OF SIMILAR COMPLEX COGNITIVE SKILLS BY MATHIAS OSVATH, CAN KABADAYI, IVO JACOBS

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