Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Leonardo DiCaprio uses his celebrity voice for big cat welfare and animal welfare generally

In a tweet as long ago as April 20, 2012, Leonardo DiCaprio said that: "Big cats like tigers and lions belong in the wild, not in people's backyards and basements. Take action!"

In many American states there are quite lax laws regarding the possession and keeping of big cats as pets. There are more tigers in private zoos in America than there are in the wild on the planet. Texas has the biggest population of captive big cats. The Netflix Tiger King documentary about the man who had the largest private zoo in America, Joe Exotic, helped to highlight the need to change things and regulate the possession of big cats as pets. He's in jail for 22 years but it helped to provide a platform for Carole Baskin, the Big Cat Rescue founder and manager (who he tried to kill) for her campaign to create legislation to restrict big cat ownership in America. You can read about that by clicking on this link if you want to.

But what I'm interested in saying in this article is that people like DiCaprio are so valuable to animal welfare because they can use their voice, their considerable voice to motivate the legislators and the public in general to take action on protecting wildlife, and not only the iconic big cats but so many other species of animal who are in dire straits; quite dramatically endangered in terms of survival because of the destruction of their habitat as a result of the commercialisation of the landscape.

Self-indulgent idiot lion owner gets hurt by his pet lion and he deserves it
Self-indulgent idiot lion owner gets hurt by his pet lion and he deserves it. Pic: Screenshot.

DiCaprio has set an extraordinary example of what he meant when he asked the nations' leaders to stop procrastinating and take action to mitigate the environmental damage done by humans by raising $43 million (£30.2 million) to help restore wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, one of the most important and fragile ecosystems on Earth.

He has pledged the funds this week in association with the Galapagos National Park Directorate, Island Conservation which "prevents extinctions and restores islands". And also, with Re:wild, a global conservation charity that DiCaprio co-founded with leading conservation scientists.

The large size of the investment will help to make real change and the work will begin in this remote Pacific archipelago which is 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. It is the island where in 1835 Charles Darwin observed wildlife and nature including the local finches which led him to begin formulating the theory of evolution through natural selection leading to his work On the Origin of Species.

They want to re-wild the islands and prevent the extinction of the pink iguana, a marine resources protection scheme to boost ecotourism which is very important to the economy. And they want to restore Floreana Island which is home to 54 threatened species. They want to reintroduce 13 locally extinct species on that island.

In addition, they have a plan to re-wild all of Latin America's Pacific archipelagos, from Mexico to Chile. Big thinking.

DiCaprio is described as an actor and environmentalist on social media. He has visited the Galapagos Islands. He said: "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 the Earth's remaining wild areas would disappear in the next few decades if we don't decisively act."

He wants action now not just for the big cats maltreated in tiny captive environments to please self-indulgent Americans but to do bigger things in conservation. It is brilliant that he is using his voice and status to achieve this.

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