Managing conflicts between man and nature, the example of rooks

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INRAE

Preserving Nature and biodiversity is a priority to which the Michelin Corporate Foundation is committed. The Foundation is participating with the Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement (INRAE) in the protection of rooks who are key players in a unique ecosystem.

The rook (Corvus frugilegus) is one of four European species belonging to the Corvidae family (jays, jackdaws, magpies, common crows, ravens). The rook, which belongs to the passerine order, nests in colonies, can live for up to 20 years, and is recognized for its high intelligence and exceptional capacity for memorization and anticipation. As a comparison, the rook’s brain represents almost 2% of its body weight, a proportion equivalent to that of humans.

Despite or because of these capacities, rooks are unliked, feared and hunted by farmers to protect their crops and even demonized in movies because they are black. As they are not shy, they are often exterminated by the destruction of their nests and by shooting, trapping and poisoning because of the nuisance they cause. However, they are central to a biodiverse ecosystem which it is crucial to preserve.

To reduce conflict between humans and rooks Valérie Dufour* an ethologist at INRAE has been observing and studying the rooks’ mode of communication. With the backing of the Michelin Corporate Foundation, she has found a place to start observing rook colonies on the Michelin site at Ladoux**.  With the help of research graduates and students in the second year of their masters course, she has created an original program based on the vocal signatures of male and female rooks in the colony. The aim is to encourage rooks to settle in less contentious areas. Tests will start in Spring 2021.

* Researcher at CNRS/INRAE’s, Laboratoire PRC (Physiologie de la reproduction et des comportements) at Nouzilly) ** Michelin’s research and development site at Cébazat 63118

The rook : key player in a unique ecosystem - photos ©Julie Cesbron, Emeline Braccini

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