Friday, March 28, 2008
Scientists at the Riken Institute in Tokyo have been training rodents to use tools. Degus, intelligent rodents from Chile, have been trained to reach through a fence and use a small rake to pull food within reach.
Venture capitalist Tobias Zitz is funding a study at UCLA to examine how people can put the little critters to work. “If they can be trained to pull sunflower seeds within reach, they can be trained to do other repetitive job,” the venture capitalist says. “Maybe their movements can be harnessed to create electricity in areas that don’t have electricity.”
Others are not so enthusiastic about putting the little rodents to work. Elsie P. Jordan, of the American Animal Rights Society, says her organization will do everything it can to prevent people from exploiting in the innocent creatures. Hector Sanchez of the AFL, on the other hand, has no objection to putting the degus to work. He just wants to be sure that they are fairly compensated. A branch of the labor union, Sanchez says, is already at work organizing the little animals.