1. An Unlikely Place…
At the Diversified Technical Education Institute of Monterrey Casanare in Colombia, students are not only dedicated to their education but also to the betterment of their world. These students have made a robust environmental impact in their area with consistent participation in picking up trash, planting trees and native plants, and studying the most relevant ways to save their earth.
The students, staff, and faculty never thought this environmental change would go further than planting trees and picking up trash, but they were wrong. With all their help in keeping the campus and the town clean, they got a lot of really good and helpful attention.
2. A Dedicated Teacher…
Their teacher, Señora Bernal, initiated many of these environmental activities to promote a better environment for them and future generations. Her passion for this project came from the sight of a very unclean school, and the thought that it would only get worse as time goes on. But, 5 years ago, she was faced with an unexpected challenge that would change the moral of the entire school.
A stray black dog decided to make their school his new home. The friendly pup would wander around the clean, developed campus, making friends everywhere he went. Señora Bernal and the other staff members, who were teaching the children how to care for the earth and its inhabitants, had no choice.
3. A Lovable Guardian…
The staff soon adopted the dog to be a guardian over the students while they go about their days. In return, the sweet black pup received a safe place to sleep, regular meals, and a name.
While Negro’s (meaning ‘black’ in reference to his color, in Spanish) guard dog reputation was respected by staff and students, soon enough it became clear that Negro was just a big, sweet pup looking for friends. As more and more students began to warm up to him, he became more of a friend than just a sole mascot.
4. A New Friend…
Negro’s taste pallet began to rapidly expand as students shared their lunches with him. They would give him pieces of their sandwiches, small crackers, cookies, and other yummy treats to encourage his tail-less tail wags.
His curiosity, however, got the best of him. He discovered the students who gave him his favorite cookies were buying them from a small snack stand on campus, so he decided to take things into his own paws.
5. An Exciting Revelation…
After watching his students hand the snack lady pieces of paper, and subsequently receive food in return, Negro’s creative puppy brain caught on.
If he could just find a paper to give the snack lady, he would, naturally, receive something in exchange. He ran over to the trees the students planted, saw a leaf on the floor, and wagged his tail…
6. A Successful Trade Deal…
Leaf in mouth, he walked proudly to the table, jumped up, and handed the woman his payment before he wagged his nub-tail, waiting for his treat to be returned to him.
“One day, spontaneously, he appeared with a leaf in his mouth, wagging his tail and letting it be known that he wanted a cookie,” said teacher, Angela Garcia Bernal.
7. A Respectable Routine…
Since Negro’s payments literally grow on trees, his spontaneous purchase became part of his daily routine very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that staff had to limit his everyday purchases to 4 a day to avoid inflation of his leaf currency (and his waistline).
The staff and students have reserved special treats just for Negro to ensure he lives a long, happy life protecting his students. The consequences of his celebrity status, however, have been entirely unexpected.
8. An Unexpected Outcome…
When Señora Bernal posted Negro’s story on her personal Facebook account, she wasn’t expecting it to blow up as much as it did. Reporters from all over the world were contacting her, asking if they could come to meet the guardian, Negro, and his students.
A local photographer decided to visit Negro and Señora Bernal, himself, and what he said about them has brought us to tears.
9. A New Perspective
In honor of Negro’s intelligence, care, love, and understanding, students created this poster on World Language Day that reads,
“He who reads a lot and walks a lot sees a lot and knows a lot.”
Peña J. David, the local photographer, stated,
“I wish there were more people in our town like the teacher[s] who use their social networks to share those pleasant experiences that make us feel proud to live here; perhaps for many it is easier to notice the thorn of the rose and not its beauty, perhaps it is easier to write off the negative and not of the positive things and that they fill with pride.”
10. Wait, Negro Isn’t The Only One?
Negro has not only single-handedly boosted inspiration within this small technical school, but he has also put this beautiful paradise of Monterrey on millions of people’s vacation radars, which has increased the town’s tourism industry.
But, Negro isn’t the only friendly furry (or should I say, feathery) animal that has taken up a trade hobby. Read on to hear about a little girl with a frightening animal bond and the secret economy of the animal kingdom.
11. Birds vs. Humans
While dogs may be man’s best friend, birds have historically had a more rough-and-tumble, inconsistent relationship with humans. From message carriers to disease carriers, from pets to threats, this class of animals deals with us only as much as they’ll allow.
In one small Oregan town, however, a vast majority of the local crows have taken a liking to a little girl.
12. Prized Possessions
As an older sister, your little brother is the very last person you want to be handling your most precious items. In fact, anyone who dares to touch your prized possessions is permanently banned forever from moving any of your things ever again.
And while this little girl’s prized possession may be a stuffed bear, another little girl in Oregan has a bead box full of her own “precious gifts” from some unexpected companions.
13. Don’t Touch!
Gabi goes to her room to retrieve a bead storage container neatly wrapped, with labeled and dated glass containers holding each item. She is being interviewed about her newfound friends, but even this adult isn’t worthy of touching her precious, boxed items.
“You may take a few close looks,” she says, “but don’t touch.” She then holds up a container with a small black metal zip while explaining which ones are her favorite.
14. One Man’s Trash Is Another Girl’s Gift
Inside these containers are various shiny, colorful objects: a miniature silver ball, a yellow bead, sea glass, an earring, a broken lightbulb, a blue LEGO piece, a rusted screw, a paperclip.
Her favorite of them all, however, is a pearl-colored heart pendant that “shows how much they love me.” So, who (or, what) is giving a little girl these rusted, dirty, and scuffed gifts?
15. Who (or what) is it?
In 2011, 4-year-old Gabi was very prone to dropping her food. A chicken nugget would drop from her lap when getting out of the car, a piece of popcorn would fall from her hair after watching a movie, a bit of crust from her sandwich would fall when she waited for the bus…
Soon enough, a group of crows began to follow her around, watching her from afar, hoping more food would drop to the ground.
16. A Regular Routine
Once she noticed the attention she was receiving from the crows, she began regularly feeding them while waiting for her school bus every day. Her brother soon joined, and before long, the ravens were greeting them at the bus stop with caws and pattering feet, hungry for their lunches.
When Gabi’s mom caught on to their sweet morning routine, she was proud of her kids for being willing to share their food with other living creatures.
“It was a kind of transformation. I never thought about birds,” says Gabi’s mom. She, too, was moved to action by her children’s new interests.
17. An Economic Trade
Gabi’s mom, Lisa, also began investing time in the crows by keeping their birdbath filled with fresh water and covering the bird feeders with peanuts. When the crows line up on the telephone lines above their yard, Gabi adds a few handfuls of dog food into the mix.
Soon after the backyard routine began, the gifts started appearing in the empty bird feeders. Although the gifts were small and sporadic, they started to grow in number.
18. Is This Bird Economy Food or Friend Motivated?
Gabi recalls one time where a small half-heart pendant with the word “best” printed on it appeared in the empty feeder. “I don’t know if they still have the part that says ‘friend,'” Gabi jokes, secretly hoping they do, in fact, have the other half of the heart.
According to John Marzluff, a wildlife scientist at the University of Washington, “If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them.”
19. Is This Bird Economy Food or Friend Motivated?
He also found that crows and people can form unique relationships due to the ways crows and people communicate and understand specific body language. “There’s definitely a two-way communication going on there,” Marzluff says. “They understand each other’s signals.”
Gabi goes back to her favorite gift, a rusted screw that’s probably not safe to touch. She believes the crows were trying to tell her that her home is their home, too. “You don’t see a crow carrying around a screw that much. Unless it’s trying to build its house.”
20. Proof Of Partnership
In any trade relationship, each party must have each other’s back. Gabi and her family have helped the crows stay nourished and happy, and in return, the crows give small tokens of their appreciation. One day, however, they proved a different kind of worth.
Gabi and her mom have been photographing the crows since the daily routine began. When her mom had heard of a bald eagle in the area, she went out looking for it with her professional camera, hoping to grab a once-in-a-lifetime picture. When she got home, however, she was disappointed.
21. Returning A Valuable Item
Before Gabi’s mom had a chance to look for her lost item, she went outside to refill the fresh water in the bird bath. As she approached the bird bath, she saw her lens cap sitting, delicately balanced on the edge.
Since she began documenting the crows, she had set up a bird cam to catch any exciting behaviors. Luckily, Lisa was able to look back into the bird cam records to see how they returned her lost lens cap. She was shocked, awed, and inspired by what she saw.
22. A Surprising Amount of Care…
In the bird cam recording, Lisa and Gabi watch as a crow lands on the edge of the bird feeder with the lens cap in its mouth. They note how carefully the bird handles it as it dips the cap into the water a few times, seemingly washing it off before it sets the cap down on the edge and flies away.
Lisa believes the bird understood the value of the lens cap, and of returning it. She smiles as she describes her experience, “I’m sure that it was intentional. They watch us all the time. I’m sure they knew I dropped it. I’m sure they decided they wanted to return it.”
23. The Token Economy
Luckily, these aren’t the only 2 stories about animals and humans exchanging currency for food, or about animals establishing economies within their groups. In the animal kingdom, this is called the Token Economy.
The Token Economy is a fundamental economic understanding for humans that is taught at a young age, but more and more, scientists see animals developing their Token Economies.
24. Negro Adapted the Human Token Economy
Negro, who was adopted by a Columbian school, became “part of the pack,” and was able to observe how the other members of the “pack” got food. Through his observations, he was able to understand the trade system by grabbing a look-a-like token to trade for the desired item.
Negro was then continually rewarded by getting his desired items in exchange for the tokens, but also by positive reinforcement from amazed onlookers.
25. The Crows Reinvented Their Token Economy by…
In the Token Economy Gabi created between her and the crows, the Crows were receiving their desired items without exchanging tokens. In return for the kind gifts, the crows began to reciprocate the gifts by grabbing shiny metal and plastic items that they associate with humans.
By establishing this Token Economy with Gabi and her family, the crows have managed to create a sustainable economy with them. Since they don’t continuously bring the family gifts, it can mean 1 of 2 things: 1.) the crows choose only the best gifts to give Gabi, or 2.) the crows understand the value of a commodity, and they just give gifts sporadically to receive the consistent exchange.
26. Are Token Economies Instinctual or Learned?
There have been quite a few studies done recently on the economic systems existing within the animal kingdom, as well as studies done historically on isolated tribal groups who have created similar economic systems.
Most animals have had trade economies for thousands of years with food, mating, and power. Female animals often trade sex for protection from males, good genes for their offspring, or first pick for food.
27. Are Token Economies Instinctual or Learned?
However, many animals that are near humans in large cities have developed the Token Economy from their observations. In the wild, it is generally an economic system of trading with benefits, services, food, or power. Scientists, however, have been able to successfully teach economics to pigeons and monkeys.
In a controlled setting, Capuchin monkeys were able to be taught modern economics. Scientists were admittedly befuddled by the results of this study, though, as it revealed a fascinating revelation about humans.
28. Humans Are Just as Dumb as Monkeys?
In the study, Laurie Santos questioned whether humans were the only ones to make irrational financial decisions and hold strong biases for the relative, not absolute, terms of choice.
After giving the monkeys tokens to pay for their food, Laurie found that they not only paid too much attention to perceived losses, but they also overvalued the items they owned and evaluated choices based on insignificant reference points.
29. Or, Are Monkeys Just as Dumb as Humans?
Laurie and her scientists were left with a surprising question: Are monkeys just as dumb as humans, or are humans just as dumb as monkeys?
The one human trait that sets us apart from the monkeys, however, is our ability to create systems that protect us from our irrationality, instead of accepting it as a truth or denying it altogether.
30. The Verdict?
Although us humans tend to make the same Economic mistakes as our fellow primates, we are set apart by our ability to be proactive and avoid making those mistakes. However, our other friends in the animal kingdom are slowly but surely learning from our routine economic practices.
Although, now that I think about it, maybe Gabi’s crows are the smart ones, getting free food in exchange for trash (food for thought?).