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How One Girl Helped

A visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom inspired 6-year-old Audrey Petoskey to help save an endangered bird.

By Gail Hennessey | August 18 , 2005
Audrey Petoskey works on her Guam rail project. (Photo: Courtesy Audrey Petoskey)
Audrey Petoskey works on her Guam rail project. (Photo: Courtesy Audrey Petoskey)

A trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, recently inspired 6-year-old Audrey Petoskey to help an endangered species.

At Animal Kingdom, the Michigan student learned about the plight of the Guam rail, a bird that is now extinct in the wild. She returned home determined to help.

Also known as the Ko'Ko', the Guam rail fell victim to a nonnative brown tree snake introduced to its home on the island of Guam. The snakes fed on the flightless birds, which now exist only in captivity.

The snakes were most likely stowaways on lumber ships delivering supplies to the islanders after World War II in the 1940s. Without any native enemy, there are now almost two million brown tree snakes slithering around the island of Guam.

Audrey learned a lot about the Guam rail from a veterinarian at the Animal Kingdom. The veterinarian suggested she go online to find out more information.

"I wanted to thank the vet for meeting with me and thought maybe I could do something to help," Audrey told Scholastic News Online. "I told my family, please don't give me any presents this year for my birthday. I'd like money to help the Guam rail."

Her efforts raised about $300, which went for supplies for a breeding facility that is raising Guam rails. Items purchased with Audrey's donation included vitamins, heating pads, and baby food for the chicks. Her money also bought supplies to make hand puppets for the chicks.

Guam Governor Felix P. Camacho was so impressed with young Audrey's efforts that he has asked island residents to follow her example to help Guam's environment. In a letter to Audrey, the Governor wrote, "Your kindness in helping the Ko' Ko', Guam's native bird, is a heartwarming gesture that gives our people a sense of pride in our island. I commend you for this selfless effort to preserve our endangered species."

Audrey is now helping her mom make puppets to help rear the Guam chicks at the breeding facility.

"I've learned so much and made lots of friends through e-mails, and am already asking my mom what I can do next year to help," Audrey said.

About the Author

Gail Hennessey recently retired from teaching 6th grade social studies in Harpursville, New York. For more information and activity ideas, visit her Web site at

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