While some teenagers spend their time mulling over which sports team to root for or pop-star to obsess over, others are up to more important things -- like working to save endangered species. Sure, it's a long way from the halls of a middle-school in Connecticut to the forests of New Zealand, home of the flightless Kakapo parrot -- but that matters little to 13-year-old Aaron Friedman, who's made it his mission to help preserve the critically endangered species. "Someone else it not going to deal with this problem," says the teenager. "It's my responsibility to try and help these birds."Aaron, who's a student at Middlebrook School in Wilton, Connecticut, developed an interest in saving the flightless bird early on. When he was in second grade, Aaron learned of the parrot's plight in a book he read at a book fair.
"When I saw the Kakapo parrot, I just knew that I needed to help," Aaron told The Stamford Times. "It is unlike a lot of endangered birds -- it can't fly, it can't run and it's not afraid of people or most animals. It's really helpless."
For the endangered Kakapo, help couldn't come soon enough. According to this year's estimates, only 122 of the birds are known to exist today. Since the introduction of invasive predators like cats and rats into the island ecosystem, the flightless birds' numbers have plummeted. However, with bold preservation efforts, funded in part by donations from concerned folks like Aaron, there's optimism that those trends can be curved.
Back in Connecticut, Aaron's commitment to the Kakapo is helping to raise some much needed awareness. "I think it's great that he is so interested in saving these endangered birds," says his mother, Heather Robinson. "Most people haven't even heard of the Kakapo, and he is getting their name out there."
As the scientific community continues to advocate on behave of the multitude of species that face the dire threat of becoming wiped out entirely, it is the local efforts of people like Aaron Friedman who can truly inspire folks to become concerned with their preservation -- so that the biodiversity of today may be around for his grandchildren to admire, too.
"It might make a difference and at least I'll know that I've tried," says Aaron.
With so many endangered species on the planet in need of help, even if it comes from half a world away, it's comforting to know that the next generation's concern for Earth's fragile creatures won't soon become extinct.
Nice work, Aaron.