Leonardo DiCaprio Helps Launch Massive 'Rewild' Operation In The Galapagos

Ten-year program will work to save endangered species, battle illegal fishing and ocean pollution, and repair damage from unsustainable ecotourism.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is helping a massive $43 million initiative to “rewild” the struggling Galapagos Islands, which he describes as “one of the most irreplaceable” spots on the planet.

The money will fund major projects over the next 10 years, including efforts to restore Floreana Island, home to 54 threatened species, and reintroduce 13 locally extinct species. One of those is the Floreana mockingbird, the first mockingbird described by Charles Darwin.

Funds will also establish captive breeding operations to save disappearing species like the pink iguana, address invasive species like rats and goats, stop illegal fishing, battle ocean pollution and repair the damage from unsustainable ecotourism.

The stunning Galapagos, a collection of Ecuadoran volcanic islands on either side of the equator In the Pacific Ocean, is home to an incredibly diverse population of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else on the planet. It was visited by Darwin in 1835 and helped inspire his theory of evolution.

Like everywhere on the globe, the archipelago is under siege.

“Around the world, the wild is declining,” DiCaprio said in a statement last month.

“We have degraded three-quarters of the wild places, and pushed more than one 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,” he added.

Local “environmental heroes that the planet needs are already here. Now we all must rise to the challenge and join them,” urged DiCaprio, who has a long history of championing environmental causes.

The effort will involve Re:wild, an organization founded this year by conservation scientists and DiCaprio, the Galápagos National Park Directorate, Island Conservation, a nonprofit from Santa Cruz, California, local communities and several other supporting organizations and government departments. it will focus on the Galapagos Islands, but will also include all Latin American Pacific archipelagos.

“Although islands are only 5% of the earth’s land mass, they hold most of the biodiversity that we have in the world,” said Paula Castaño, a conservation specialist and wildlife veterinarian. “Taking this opportunity to re-wild, restore these islands … the impact that we can have here is higher than anywhere else.”

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