Leonardo DiCaprio is leading a $43 million pledge to rewild and restore the Galápagos Islands.
The actor, environmentalist, and entrepreneur is partnering with conservation groups such as Galápagos National Park Directorate and Island Conservation as well as the local community.
This follows the launch of Re:wild (formerly known as Global Wildlife Conservation), an organization co-founded by DiCaprio and a group of conservation experts and scientists. Re:wild’s other supporting partners include Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment and Water and the Charles Darwin Foundation.
According to DiCaprio, the new group aims to “amplify and scale the local solutions being led by Indigenous peoples and local communities, nongovernmental organizations, companies, and government agencies” in order to increase their overall impact.
“More than half of Earth’s remaining wild areas could disappear in the next few decades if we don’t decisively act. This is why today I am excited to launch @Rewild – to help protect what’s still wild and restore the rest,” wrote DiCaprio on Twitter earlier this week.
Re:wild says that it has protected and conserved over 12 million acres so far, benefitting over 16,000 species in some of the world’s most unique and biodiverse areas, such as the Galápagos Islands.
UNESCO first declared the Galápagos Islands a World Heritage Site in 1978, and over 98 percent of the archipelago is now classified as protected national parks.
The $43m pledge will go directly towards the restoration and rewilding of Floreana Island, which is home to 140 people and 54 threatened and unique species such as Galápagos penguins and petrels, marine iguanas, land snails, and Darwin’s finches. Re:wild will also reintroduce 13 locally extinct species.
What is rewilding?
Rewilding is a modern and progressive approach to conservation that restores ecosystems and natural processes in such a way that the environment can take care of itself.
This is in contrast with more traditional forms of conservation which often require maintenance, interference, and controversially, the mass culling of flora and fauna. According to Rewilding Europe, “nature knows best when it comes to survival and self-governance.”
Rewilding can also include bringing back at-risk or even functionally extinct animals, such as the successful reintroduction of beavers in the UK, the grey wolf in the U.S., and the Galápagos Islands own Pinzón giant tortoise — built up from just 14 individuals to over 1,500 in 2010.
“We have seen rewilding in our lifetime, so we don’t really have to wait five years or 20 or 50 years. These are immediate results,” Island Conservation’s Paula Castaño, a wildlife veterinarian and island restoration specialist, told the Guardian.
“We will see the payoff for all of these efforts, and not across only the Galápagos, but farther beyond archipelagos in Latin America,” she added.
This new commitment to rewilding Floreana includes aiding the recovery of the Floriana giant tortoise, in addition to the pink iguana and the Floreana mockingbird (the first mockingbird described by Charles Darwin), all of which are at “the edge” of extinction.
‘It is very important that each of us live in harmony with nature’
To coincide with the launch of Re:wild, both the initiative and DiCaprio’s social media accounts were taken over by Castaño, where she discussed the ongoing conservation efforts in the Galápagos region.
She says that bringing back the islands’ endangered animals will also help support community economic livelihood along with repairing and protecting ecosystem health. Notably, the local population themselves are leading the Floreana Island Ecological Restoration Project, as recounted in a Re:wild blog post.
“For us, it is an honor to live here in Galápagos with the flora and fauna of the Galápagos, which is unique and cannot be found elsewhere,” Anibal Altamirano, a Galapagos National Park ranger, told Re:wild.
“For me as a person, as a citizen of Floreana and as a park ranger it is very important that each of us live in harmony with nature,” he said.