United Arab Emirates residents are being inspired to care for the environment by a crew of trained litter-picking birds. As part of the "Nature Educates Us" campaign, 25 parrots and crows have been trained to locate and remove trash tossed on grassy areas across Abu Dhabi.
The organization behind this unconventional approach is Barari Natural Resources. Barari, meaning wilderness, is an Abu Dhabi-based institution responsible for 400 forests and reserves spanning 200,000 hectares (2,000 square kilometers) and containing 12 million trees.
Within the framework of the campaign, the seven most trusted birds out of the 25 will be appearing at multiple public parks and reserves all throughout the capital. After a schedule is worked out with the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities, the five crows and two parrots will be displaying their training and expertise, reminding people of the significance of picking up after oneself.
According to their Spanish trainer, Germán Alonso Malo, crows were chosen due to their cleverness. The parrots, on the other hand, are jokesters and act like clowns most of the time, but they do their job well. Children will definitely enjoy the antics of the parrots.
"If a bird is able to pick up trash, why can't humans do the same thing?" he told The National.
Due to their strong sense of sight, the birds are able to find small cigarette butts and pieces of plastic effortlessly. Cigarette butts are considered the world's most commonly littered piece of trash; their toxicity impedes grass growth by 13 percent. The birds were initially trained to pick them up.
The CEO of Barari, Ahmed Alblooki, was inspired by such an initiative accomplished at a theme park in France in 2018. Robert S. Mulvihill, an ornithologist at the French National Aviary, believes birds such as parrots, rooks, and crows have a "really high neuronal densities for their size," which means these animals possess high intellect.
For Abu Dhabi's campaign, though, a replication was not going to be possible. After consulting with Barari's Wildlife Conservation Services manager Malik Rapaie, it was found that the species of birds used in France cannot be the same used in the UAE. The main worry was that the crows used in the French initiative were indigenous to the country.
It was later decided that the Indian house crow would be the bird for this campaign due to the extent of its existence in Abu Dhabi mangroves.
The hope is that this plan will, in fact, reap a change in attitudes towards littering in the UAE. In the long run, this should educate this generation and future ones about the importance of a clean environment.