A coalition of groups, including a newly formed organization backed by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, has mobilized $ 43 million for efforts to restore degraded habitats in the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago renowned for its endemic species and its central role in understanding the scientists on ecology and evolution.
The Galapagos initiative has three immediate priorities: to help restore Floreana Island, one of the islands most degraded by human activities in the Galapagos; increase the population size of the critically endangered pink iguana on Isabela Island; and the strengthening of the protection of the archipelago’s marine reserves, which are fundamental to the local economy and which have been besieged by foreign fishing fleets in recent years. The initiative involves more than 40 partners, ranging from local NGOs to governments and international organizations, drawing on decades of collective experience working throughout the archipelago.
To mark the start of the new initiative, DiCaprio is handing over control of his social media accounts to Paula A. Castaño, an Island Conservation veterinarian and biologist who lives in the Galapagos Islands, for the day. DiCaprio has more than 86 million followers on his official Instagram, Twitter, Y Facebook accounts.
“When I traveled to the Galapagos Islands, I met with Paula Castaño and other environmental heroes in Ecuador working day after day to save one of the most irreplaceable places on the planet. I am excited to share the work of your team and support the many years effort to protect and restore these iconic islands, together with the Re: wild team, ”said Leonardo DiCaprio.
One of the groups leading the effort is Re: wild, an organization that has just been formed between Global Wildlife Conservation and Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a founding member of the board of directors of the new entity. The Galapagos initiative is Re: wild’s first project under its new brand, but the group plans to expand its existing global work, placing a renewed emphasis on the concept of regenerating or restoring species and ecosystems to previous levels of abundance and health.
“Rewilding, a positive rethink for nature conservation, involves holistic solutions to remove barriers and reestablish vibrant wildlife populations and intact, functional and resilient ecosystems that effectively integrate people.” said Re: wild in a press release. “Re: wild is a movement to build a world in balance with the wild.”
DiCaprio adds: “Re: wild offers a bold vision to scale up and scale local solutions led by indigenous peoples and local communities, non-governmental organizations, businesses and government agencies, to help increase their impact around the world. The environmental heroes the planet needs are here. Now we must all rise to the challenge and join them. “
In the case of Galapagos, the new initiative has initially focused on specific opportunities. For example, Floreana Island has great potential for restoration after the loss of native vegetation and species through clearing, arson, and the introduction of invasive species in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Galapagos initiative aims to reintroduce 13 species that have become extinct and help increase the population of the island’s 54 threatened species.
Efforts on Floreana Island would expand to other parts of the Galapagos under the initiative, which over the next decade hopes to restore another two dozen islands, “halt and reverse” the decline in 250 threatened species, and vastly increase the extent of areas under protection and effective handling. At the same time, the initiative plans to help build the capacity of local and regional conservation and restoration experts, as well as support the development of more sustainable and resilient economies for Galapagos communities.
Castaño said the lessons from the efforts in Galapagos could eventually be applied in other geographies to scale the impact and reverse the decline in biodiversity.
“Time is running out for so many species, especially on islands where their small populations are vulnerable and threatened,” Castaño said in a statement. “We know how to prevent these extinctions and restore functional and prosperous ecosystems, we have done it, but we need to replicate these successes, innovate and scale.”
“We need catalytic investments like the one announced today to replicate our successes in Galapagos and elsewhere.”
Wes Sechrest, chief scientist and CEO of Re: wild, who previously held the same positions at Global Wildlife Conservation, echoed Castaño’s sentiments.
“To reverse the climate crisis and the collapse of the ecosystem, we must focus on a ‘technology’ that took billions of years to perfect, that is free and that sustains us every day: nature, in its wildest form.” Sechrest said in a statement. “Where better to start than the Galapagos, which, as the first World Heritage Site, is among the most extraordinary wild places on the planet. Re: wild’s work with partners is hope in action, from Darwin’s lab to the wilds of Australia and the forests of Congo in Central Africa. “
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