Leonardo DiCaprio has announced a pledge of $ 43million (£ 30.4million) to implement large-scale conservation operations in the Galapagos Islands, with his social media accounts taken over by a wildlife vet and specialist of the restoration of the islands.
The initiative, in partnership with Re: wild, an organization founded this year by a group of renowned conservation scientists and DiCaprio, the Galapagos National Park leadership, island conservation and local communities, aims to regenerate all of the Galapagos Islands, as well as all of the Pacific archipelagos in Latin America.
The $ 43 million pledge will fund projects in the Galapagos, including efforts to restore Floreana Island, home to 54 endangered species, and reintroduce 13 locally extinct species, including the mockingbird Floreana – the first mockingbird described by Charles Darwin.
The money will also be used to fund a captive breeding program and other activities aimed at preventing the extinction of the pink iguana and to strengthen measures to protect the marine resources of the Galapagos from the human impact of l ecotourism.
DiCaprio said: “When I visited the Galapagos Islands, I met Paula Castaño and other environmental heroes in Ecuador, working day in and day out to save one of the most irreplaceable places on the planet.
“All over the world, nature is in decline. We have degraded three quarters of wild spaces and pushed more than a meter of species to the brink of extinction. More than half of Earth’s remaining wilderness could disappear over the next few decades if we don’t act decisively.
“The environmental heroes the planet needs are already here. Now we must all rise to the challenge and join them. “
Paula A Castaño, who will take over DiCaprio’s Instagram and Twitter accounts to promote the critical interventions needed to revive the Galapagos, said: “Time is running out for so many species, especially on islands where their small populations are vulnerable and threatened. .
“We need catalytic investments like the one announced today to replicate our successes in the Galapagos and elsewhere.”
Castaño, who has worked as an island restoration specialist for eight years, believes that if humans can coexist with nature, ecosystems can be successfully regenerated.
“Up to 97% of the area of the Galapagos Islands falls under national park status. We are not trying to remove humans from the picture. We are all trying to work together to restore these ecosystems and support the community as well. They want to be able to continue to thrive with nature.
“For example in Floreana, you can see a Darwin’s finch right next to you. If you go to the beach, you can see sea lions somewhere in the corners basking in the sun right next to you. They don’t have this fear of humans because we work together. They are not threatened elsewhere when they are completely afraid of humans. “
Castaño recalled the successful reforestation restorations in the past. In 2012, invasive rodents were removed from Pinzón Island by the Galápagos National Park, aided by Island Conservation for the benefit of the Pinzón giant tortoise. As a result, new babies were discovered in 2014.
“We’ve seen reforestation in our lifetime, so we don’t really have to wait five years, 20 or 50 years. These are immediate results. We will see the fruits of all these efforts, and not just in the Galapagos, but beyond the archipelagos of Latin America.
Marcelo Mata Guerrero, Ecuadorian Minister of Environment and Water, said: “These types of partnerships that take advantage of technical, social and financial innovations are exactly what we need around the world to restore the health of our planet.
“With Ecuador, one of the 17 most biodiverse countries on the planet, here we have the opportunity to demonstrate what a truly effective model looks like for the protection and restoration of our wildlife and wild lands. common – the immune system of our planet, protecting all life on Earth, including humans, from the effects of climate change and emerging diseases. “
DiCaprio, a longtime champion of global environmental issues, has provided more than $ 100 million in grants to a variety of programs and projects. He also praised teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg as a “leader of our time” and addressed the United Nations on the dangers of climate change in 2014.