LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- One of Diego Osornio's favorite animals at the LA Zoo is the jaguar, and he says he was in awe the first time he saw them.
"They have these beautiful gold eyes," said Osornio, "And when you look right into the eye of these jaguars, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The 16-year-old junior at Alliance Environmental Science & Technology High School has spent nearly a year volunteering at the LA Zoo, educating visitors about the 15,000 jaguars that remain in the wild.
"They have the strongest bite force out of any big cat, including lions and tigers," said Osornio, "So they can tear down on animals in the wild. They're really amazing creatures."
Osornio was also featured in the zoo's "iCare" campaign video, raising awareness and promoting conservation, and he'll also be helping with the zoo's "Wild for the Planet" event from April 21 - May 18, focused on protecting the environment and the creatures on it.
"When I see kids like Diego, that all of a sudden find this interest in science and conservation, it reminds me that we are setting these kids up to be the future conservation leaders of the world, and they're going to save our planet," said Anna Becker, the LA Zoo's Coordinator of Volunteer Programs.
Osornio says volunteering more than 170 hours at the zoo has changed his life. He was once unsure about his future, but now knows that he wants to attend Cornell University.
"This program offered me direction," said Osornio, "I definitely want to pursue a career as a wildlife biologist or as a veterinarian."
Cool Kid Diego Osornio is a zoo volunteer focused on conservation