Generous Crows?



BREWSTER, NY — (December 22, 2005) — Why would a full-grown raven, living in a flight cage at Green Chimneys’ Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, voluntarily feed his own food ration to a group of wild black vultures through the wires of his enclosure? That’s the question perplexing staff and students at Green Chimneys.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, said farm psychologist Dr. Suz Brooks. I was watching the raven pluck little pieces of meat we had just fed him, walk over to the wire of his enclosure and push the food toward the waiting vultures on the outside. The vultures gobbled up the morsels, as the raven kept getting more.

For many years, it was thought that concepts such as sharing, altruism and generosity were strictly human traits, and subject of animal emotions still is hotly debated among scientists. Yet, the work of ethologists like Jane Goodall, Mark Bekoff and others interested in the study of animals continues to reveal amazing abilities some species have to demonstrate complex behaviors indicating a much higher level of emotional and intellectual functioning.

Based on the science, ravens and crows are known to be extremely intelligent, said Michael Kaufmann, Green Chimneys’ Farm and Wildlife director. But we really don’t know why our raven has decided that feeding his food to the vultures outside his cage is something he wants to do. We need to be careful not to jump to conclusions based on human emotions when we are looking at explanations of animal behavior. But then again, sometimes things really are what they appear to be. Regardless why the raven is doing this, the students at Green Chimneys are seeing firsthand that even a bird can share his food, and wouldn’t it be amazing if that were exactly the reason why the raven is doing it?

“Green Chimneys is dedicated to the preservation and rehabilitation of wildlife, said Paul Kupchok, founder of wildlife programs at Green Chimneys. The one thing we must remember is that wild animals belong in the wild and no matter how intelligent they are, they do not make good pets.

Green Chimneys restores possibilities and creates futures for children with emotional, behavioral, social and learning challenges. The organization operates a residential treatment center for children, a special education school, a farm, and a variety of programs in New York and Connecticut.






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