November 24, 2010
Earlier this year, Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio visited Nepal with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) experts and local anti-poaching staff to learn how scientists monitor the southern jungle’s tigers. He was on a quest to raise $20 million for tiger conservation.
Yesterday, at Russia's Global Tiger Summit being held in Saint Petersburg, DiCaprio personally committed to $1 million.
Besides having a global benefit on the rapidly shrinking tiger population, it will also specifically help preserve one of Nepal’s most treasured assets.
According to DiCaprio, “"Illegal poaching of tigers for their parts and massive habitat loss due to palm oil, timber and paper production are driving this species to extinction. If we don’t take action now, one of the most iconic animals on our planet could be gone in just a few decades. By saving tigers, we can also protect some of our last remaining ancient forests and improve the lives of indigenous communities."
This last comment should strike a chord with Nepalis.
DiCaprio’s role as activist
The actor established The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998. In the last dozen years, it has fostered awareness of environmental issues by participating with such organizations as the Natural Resources Defense Council, where DiCaprio is on the board of trustees; Global Green USA, where he serves as a board member; and the International Fund For Animal Welfare, where he is on the honorary board of directors.
To expand global awareness of environmental issues, the DiCaprio Foundation created the Web site leonardodicaprio.org. The result has been a wider outreach to an international audience. The site also promotes current environmental campaigns, such as "the world wide movement to eliminate the use of plastic bags."
In 2001, Environment Now honored the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation with its prestigious Martin Litton Environmental Warrior Award. The foundation also spearheaded the production of the feature-length environmental documentary, The 11th Hour, and helped launch the online network 11thhouraction.com. This Web site is a forum where individuals and communities can take action in the sustainability movement.
In early 2008, the DiCaprio Foundation joined the California Community Foundation, and is now known as The Leonardo DiCaprio Fund at CCF. The fund will continue to support environmental causes through grant-making and active participation.
Putin’s role in Russia’s Global Tiger Summit
It seems that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the driving force behind the high-powered gathering in St. Petersbug, an unprecedented summit aiming to double the number of wild tigers between now and 2022. The 13 countries where tigers still exist in the wild are Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, Thailand and Viet Nam. Representatives from all of these countries are in St. Petersburg.
For years, Putin has championed the survival of tigers. Yesterday, he addressed the summit by saying that “the situation of the tiger is close to catastrophe. Nature has sent us calls of alarm in the hope of being heard.”
The number of tigers has plunged approximately 95% over the past century, primarily due to dramatic habitat loss and poachers. The biggest country keeping the illicit trade thriving – by purchasing tiger pelts and body parts – is China.
With Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao nearby in the audience, Putin added, “We are not thinking about upcoming elections, but about future generations, to whom we should leave what we have admired. No one can reproach us for talking rubbish, when the heads of government have met to speak about a big cat. We have put the tiger on the agenda of the international community.
It remains to be seen if China will curb the illicit trade within its borders.
DiCaprio and Apple
In the meantime, DiCaprio is keeping the pressure on by tweeting.
Earlier this week he re-tweeted Andrew C. Revkin’s suggestion that Apple, which has long named its Macintosh operating systems for the tiger and other big cats, help conserve the world’s last few dozen havens for wild tigers.
The idea – that Steven Jobs and Apple give something back to the great cats, which are such appealing icons – was greeted by Apple with silence. According to Revkin, he ran the idea by Apple’s press office and on Nov. 19 “was told that the company had no response for DiCaprio…”
Nepali officials have been more gracious to the actor
After DiCaprio’s recent trip to Nepal, Anil Manandhar, country representative of WWF Nepal said, ““WWF is privileged to have partnered with Leonardo DiCaprio to work on tiger conservation. He cares deeply about the fate of Wild Tigers and the people with whom they share their habitat. He is committing his time, wealth, and most importantly, his talent to this noble cause.”
Deepak Bohara, Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation, also chimed in: "The Government of Nepal lauds the active engagement and support of international celebrity, Leonardo DiCaprio, in conserving wild tigers in Nepal. This underscores the importance of collective efforts and the commitment of international communities to join hands in saving wild tigers globally. Mr. DiCaprio's support will go a long way in contributing towards Nepal's efforts to double the number of tigers by 2022."
The $1 million that Leonardo DiCaprio donated yesterday will definitely help.