Actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio has announced a $43 million pledge to go toward ecological restoration efforts on the Galápagos Islands, according to the Guardian. The move is part of DiCaprio’s ongoing initiatives to promote climate action and conservation efforts.
DiCaprio announced on Monday the launch of Re:wild, an environmental organization that seeks to protect wildlife and restore biodiversity, of which he is a founding board member along with a group of conservation scientists. In partnership with the Galápagos National Park Directorate, Island Conservation, and local communities, Re:wild is planning to rewild — or reintroduce lost animal species to an environment — the entirety of the Galápagos and Latin America’s archipelagos in the Pacific ocean.
Part of Re:wild’s core mission is to amplify the voices of Indigenous people and local communities.
For the Galápagos Islands project, DiCaprio partnered with Paula Castaño, a wildlife veterinarian and conservation specialist in Ecuador, to take over his Twitter and Instagram accounts to share information about the rewilding efforts.
“When I travelled to the Galápagos Islands, I met with 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,” DiCaprio said. “The environmental heroes that the planet needs are already here. Now we all must rise to the challenge and join them.”
The $43 million, pledged by DiCaprio and Re:wild partners, will go toward a variety of conservation projects, such as restoring Floreana Island, creating a breeding program for pink iguanas, and strengthening conservation measures to protect the Galápagos from tourism. The project will also reintroduce 13 locally extinct species — including the Floreana mockingbird, which was first described by English naturalist Charles Darwin.
The Galápagos Islands are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and described as a “melting pot of marine species.” They are well known for being the site where Darwin catalogued giant tortoises and marine iguanas, inspiring the theory of evolution by natural selection laid out in his book On the Origin of Species.
However, the impacts of tourism, illegal fishing, and invasive species have led to the formation of the islands’ fragile ecosystem. For this reason, conservation groups have made strides to add endangered species into the environment. These include releasing three dozen endangered giant tortoises who were raised in captivity into the wild earlier this year.
Castaño said that rewilding efforts can make an immediate and positive impact on building up the islands’ biodiversity and protecting wildlife.
“We will see the payoff for all of these efforts, and not across only the Galápagos, but farther beyond archipelagos in Latin America,” she said.
This conservation effort on the Galápagos Islands is just one of many projects that Re:wild has planned. The organization will also work on protecting red colobus monkeys in mainland Africa, creating a breeding program for the Sumatran rhino in Indonesia, and restoring the presence of Cuban crocodiles.
One of the most active celebrities in the climate change movement, DiCaprio has long used his platform to raise awareness about climate change and fund environmental actions. By announcing the $43 million pledge to restore wildlife on the Galápagos Islands alone, it is clear that he is just getting started.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Leonardo DiCaprio announced the $43 million pledge with Re:wild, of which he is a founding board member.