Cameroon Campaign Earns Rare Title From Scientists
Deforestation is one of the leading factors driving global warming, climate change and loss of biodiversity. Many people are risking their lives to defend our forests and our planet. It’s hard to believe that a simple campaign on social media can make a difference, but actor Leonardo DiCaprio fired a shot that echoed around the world.
Ebo Forest is one of the largest intact rainforests in Cameroon. The forest spans across about 500,000 acres. The forest is the ancestral home to the Banen people and vast biodiversity.
In 2020, the Cameroon government opened up 169,000 acres of forest to logging. Experts and advocates wrote the Cameroon government to highlight the precious animal and plant species threatened by the exploitation. DiCaprio jumped in and put social media to work.
“Cameroon’s Ebo Forest, and all of the incredible animals that live there, are in trouble. This includes forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees and so many others. Let’s help #SaveEboForest,” DiCaprio Tweeted.
Just three weeks later, the Cameroon prime minister’s office suspended plans to log Ebo Forest.
“DiCaprio was crucial in helping to stop the logging of the Ebo Forest,” said Dr. Martin Cheek, a senior researcher with the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, London. “We very much appreciated the support Leo gave us in campaigning to protect Ebo last year so it seemed fitting to honor him in this way, naming a species unique only to this forest, after him. Had the logging concession gone ahead, we would have likely lost this species to timber extraction and slash-and-burn agriculture that usually follows logging concessions.”
The Leo tree is scientifically known as Uvariopsis dicaprio. The tree is is new to the world of science. It’s a small and tropical, evergreen tree with glossy, yellow flowers growing from its trunk. The tree is extremely rare and critically endangered because the forest where it is found is unprotected. Logging, mining and agriculture threaten biodiversity in the region and beyond. Uvariopsis dicaprio is now a member of the ylang ylang family.
Several of the species new to science that were named in 2021 are already extinct, and many are threatened, by deforestation, changes to the use of land and climate change.
DiCaprio also has put his star power to work for forest conservation. For example, he has helped defend the embattled Gunung Leuser Ecosystem. His philanthropic foundation pledged $3.2 million to help protect the forest and its biodiversity. Located in northwestern Sumatra, Leuser is one of Southeast Asia’s last great tracts of intact rainforest. It’s the only ecosystem where rhino, tiger, elephant and orangutan coexist.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has given out more than $40 million since its inception in 1998. The foundation, now known as re:wild, has mostly supported environmental causes. In 2016, DiCaprio was recognized for his climate change advocacy at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Thousands of trees have been planted in his name in Mexico to offset his carbon footprint.
“Generosity is the key to our future,” DiCaprio said. “Currently, less than three percent of all philanthropic giving goes to defending our planet.”