Leonardo DiCaprio Vows $43M To Restore The Magnificent Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are a historically breathtaking volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, near Ecuador. Among the sandy cliffs, forests, and clear waters, the wildlife of the Galapagos is remarkable and unique.

The archipelago was discovered in 1535 by a Spanish bishop named Fray Thomas de Berlanga. He named the Galápagos after the impressive giant tortoises. In 1835 a visit to the Galápagos inspired Charles Darwin to form his ideas on natural selection. After observing 13 different types of finches (songbirds) with varying shapes of a beak, food sources, and ways to capture food, he created his theory of evolution. By 1978, the Galápagos Islands were declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

A Giant tortoise in the Galapagos. (Credit: Pixabay)
The Galapagos crab
The Galapagos crab. (Credit: Pixabay)

Although this is a remarkable natural oasis, unfortunately, there are 23 endangered species at risk of extinction. Thankfully, Leonardo DiCaprio is on it! The Actor is making it his personal mission to reverse this damage and save the Galapagos Islands and all the beautiful species that live among them.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Galapagos Islands are home to more than 9,000 species, many endemic to the islands. Tourists worldwide come to this exotic destination to witness these amazing creatures and to experience the area’s natural beauty.

Unfortunately, while tourism is financially beneficial for the Galapagos, the ecosystem has been negatively impacted. Leonardo DiCaprio has promised to donate $43 million towards conservation projects that will “rewild” the Galapagos Islands over the next decade to address this issue. The initiatives include: restoring Floreana Island, which is home to fifty-four threatened species, and reintroducing thirteen locally extinct species, including the Floreana mockingbird.

The Floreana mockingbird
The Floreana mockingbird. (Credit: Luis Ortiz-Catedral)
A Floreana mockingbird, the first mockingbird described by Charles Darwin. Unfortunately, this mockingbird is one of the island's locally extinct species
A Floreana mockingbird, the first mockingbird described by Charles Darwin. Unfortunately, this mockingbird is one of the island’s locally extinct species. (Credit: Bill Weir/Global Wildlife Conservation

According to the Huffington Post, the funds will also help save disappearing species such as the pink iguana (there are only 200 left worldwide), protect the islands from invasive species like goats and rats, eliminate illegal fishing, decrease ocean pollution, and repair the damage from unsustainable ecotourism.

The Galapagos has 500 species of indigenous plants, 180 of which are endemic to the islands. Unfortunately, since the islands were first settled in the mid-1800s, more than 800 species of introduced plants have threatened many native species. In addition, many islands have an arid climate populated largely by cacti. Species include the prickly pear, giant candelabra cactus, and lava cactus. Meanwhile, many coastal areas are home to mangrove swamps, in which black, button, red and white mangrove trees thrive.

The Galapagos are home to several endemic marine mammals, including the Galapagos fur seal that grows to about 5 feet long, the Galapagos Sea lions, who grow up to 6 feet long and eat squid, octopus, and fish. The Galapagos is also home to the only ocean-going lizard species globally, called the marine iguana, which searches for seaweed underwater and grows up to 5 feet long.

Marine iguanas.
Marine iguanas. (Credit: Pixabay)
Marine iguanas.
Marine iguanas. (Credit: Pixabay)

In addition to providing a large donation, DiCaprio’s Instagram and Twitter accounts will also be managed by Island Restoration Specialist Paula A Castaño. “Time is running out for so many species, especially on islands where their small populations are vulnerable and threatened,” she told the Guardian.

While it’s true that humans contribute to the problem, environmentalists do not intend to stop tourism completely. Humans living in harmony with the natural ecosystem is one of the initiative’s primary goals.

Castaño explained:

Up to 97% of the land area of the Galapagos Islands comes under national park status. We are not trying to remove humans from the picture. We are trying to all work together to rewild these ecosystems and support the community as well. They want to be able to continue to thrive together with nature.

The Galapagos Islands are fascinating and rare because the wildlife will come right up to you. According to The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, the animals never developed a fear of humans due to insufficient predators on the Islands. As a result, animals continue with their everyday lives, and people can easily observe them. Therefore, you don’t need an activity or a place to go, simply walking around these precious Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It is estimated that the population of the magnificent frigatebird, also called the pirate bird, in the Galapagos could be several thousand pairs
It is estimated that the population of the magnificent frigatebird, also called the pirate bird, in the Galapagos could be several thousand pairs. (Credit: Pixabay)
A marine iguana on Floreanna Island
A marine iguana on Floreanna Island. (Credit: Andrew S Wright/Global Wildlife Conservation)

DiCaprio said:

When I traveled 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.

 

Around the world, the wild is declining. We have degraded three-quarters of the wild places and pushed more than 1 million species to the brink of extinction. More than half of Earth’s remaining wild areas could disappear in the next few decades if we don’t decisively act. The environmental heroes that the planet needs are already here. Now we all must rise to the challenge and join them.

The actor’s generosity and compassion will save these unique Islands and help them continue to thrive so they can remain an incredible home to thousands of rare species.

The Galapagos Islands Is Getting Restored With Leonardo DiCaprio's Help
Blue-footed boobies are one of three booby species found on the Galapagos. (Credit: Pixabay)
The Galapagos Islands Is Getting Restored With Leonardo DiCaprio's Help
The Galapagos crab. (Credit: Pixabay)

DiCaprio is a long-time champion of global environmental issues. He has provided over $100 million in grants to various programs and projects. In addition, he addressed the United Nations about the dangers of climate change in 2014 and praised the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as a “leader of our time.”

In July 2019, he donated over $5 million to fight Amazon fires, and by September, he teamed up with Will Smith and produced two limited-edition running shoes to raise money for funds to help the Amazon. In addition, DiCaprio has also supported the construction of California’s world’s largest wildlife bridge, where mountain lions and other creatures will have a safer place to roam by 2023.

DiCaprio’s generosity doesn’t end there. He has also helped people during the pandemic. DiCaprio teamed up with philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs to launch a food fund called America’s Food Fund to help hunger relief organizations. So far, they’ve raised $45,139,600 to support communities impacted by the coronavirus.

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