“Crowbuddy”: Crows help clean up the zoo

Crows are able to understand cognitive performances and know how to take advantage of their proximity to humans. Humans, however, tend to only pay attention to crows when they disturb us. The Crowbuddy shows a completely new human-crow relationship: where crows cooperate with humans by collecting trash and then exchanging it for a food reward.


During this project, the crows in the zoo will be trained to exchange garbage for a food reward. Central questions in this research include how crows learn to use the Crowbuddy and how this information is then spread to the rest of the population.


This project is supposed to show new ways to reduce the problem of littering and highlight how people and wild animals can live together in a beneficial relationship. 


The wide opening at the top of the Crowbuddy allows crows to throw all kinds of waste into the apparatus. A specially programmed artificial intelligence (AI) recognizes which objects are thrown in and rewards the animals for “right” objects (paper, plastic, bottle caps…), while “wrong” objects (twigs, leaves, stones...) are not rewarded.