LIHUE — A 7-year-old Oahu girl is teaching those around her a thing or two about selflessness.
In fact, the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project has given Ariana Brown, a student at Lanikai Elementary Public Charter School in Kailua, the unofficial title of “youngest bird warrior.”
In December, when it came time to put together her Christmas list, Brown told her grandmother the only gift she wanted from her was a Goodnature rat trap, a mechanical trap that resets itself after a rat wanders inside, so that she could help protect Kauai’s endangered forest birds.
That’s it. No dolls or makeup. No iTunes gift certificates like her brothers and sisters. Just a rat trap — a gift for her feathered friends on the Garden Isle.
So, her grandmother, Alana Burrows, made a $300 donation in Ariana’s name to KFBRP’s “Birds, not rats” campaign.
“This was something she asked for,” Burrows said. “She had no second thoughts about not getting a Christmas gift.”
In addition to the KFBRP T-shirt, sticker, keychain, note card set and DVD that come with the donation, Ariana will be able to track her very own trap online to see just how big an impact her gift is having on rat removal.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, considering the type of young person she is, Ariana didn’t stop there. She informed her classmates about the many threats facing Kauai’s birds and inspired them to raise additional money.
One boy named Rain set up a lemonade stand with his younger sister and raised more than $100 toward the purchase of another trap. Since then, other classmates have jumped on board. One student raised $33 from lemonade sales, another $8.
“It’s really cute,” Barbara VanDerKamp, Ariana and Rain’s teacher at Lanikai, said of her students’ enthusiasm and willingness to contribute to the cause.
Once her students raise a collective $300, VanDerKamp plans to purchase a trap for the class.
KFBRP Coordinator Dr. Lisa “Cali” Crampton said she was deeply moved by the contributions.
“Ariana’s selflessness in not taking a gift for herself from her grandmother and Rain’s fundraising effort were really inspiring to us, KFBRP, and to me as a mom,” Crampton wrote in an email. “I had never really thought that kids of that age would understand this kind of activity.”
Now, Crampton said her own son’s teacher is planning to organize a lemonade fundraiser with his class.
On Kauai, in the upper reaches of Kokee and the Alakai Swamp, are species of forest birds found nowhere else on Earth. Their populations, however, are declining at alarming rates. One of the biggest threats, depending on the species, is rats, which are known to eat eggs, young birds and even adults.
In an effort to protect the last of these species, KFBRP launched a funding and outreach campaign Dec. 2 to eliminate rats with humane, self-resetting traps. In addition to increasing awareness about the threats rats pose to birds and native ecosystems, KFBRP made a goal of raising at least $10,000 — enough to purchase and install 25 traps.
Instead, the donations poured in. Some gave $1, others $1,000. As of Friday afternoon, with 30 hours left to go in the Indiegogo campaign, KFBRP had raised $25,655 — 257 percent of its goal — from 333 funders.
Crampton said the success of the fundraiser blew her away.
“I think people saw it as something tangible they could do to help the birds, and not many people are that fond of rats,” she wrote. “And from all over the world!”
Technically, the campaign was supposed to end at 11:59 tonight. That’s no longer the case.
“We just got an email from Indiegogo saying that because our campaign was so successful, it’s going to be one of a select group of campaigns that has no end date!” Crampton wrote. “So we can keep raising money through Indiegogo indefinitely.”
Crampton added that the money raised thus far is enough to purchase at least 90 Goodnature traps, which will cover more than 100 acres of Kauai forest.
“We will combine these with the traps we already have, so the total will be much greater,” she said.
Since humans colonized Hawaii, seven of Kauai’s original 13 forest birds have gone extinct, including five since the 1960s. Of the eight that remain, six are found only on Kauai.
Three Kauai species — the Puaiohi or Small Kauai Thrush, the Akeke’e or Kauai Akepa, and the Akikiki or Kauai Creeper — are federally listed as endangered. Populations of these birds have plummeted as much as 90 percent in the last five years, according to officials. The Akikiki and the Puaiohi now number fewer than 500 birds, and the Akeke’e numbers fewer than 1,000 individuals.
The Division of Forestry and Wildlife has identified rats as a major threat to these species and their native habitats.
For information about the campaign or to make a donation, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/protect-hawaii-s-stunning-endangered-forest-birds/.