LOS ANGELES: Leonardo DiCaprio on Tuesday donated $1 million toward efforts to save tigers from extinction as he arrived in Moscow to take part in an international ‘tiger summit.’
The star of movies Titanic and Inception made the $1 million commitment to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with whom he has been working this year on the Save Tigers Now campaign. DiCaprio, 36, is a committed environmentalist and a WWF board member who recently visited Nepal and Bhutan and toured a tiger habitat by elephant with an anti-poaching staff.
According to wildlife experts just 3,200 tigers now live in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago.
Russia is hosting a 13-nation meeting in St Petersburg this week to try and double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022.
DiCaprio is among those attending the first-ever tiger summit. The actor’s first attempt to get to St Petersburg suffered a set-back on Sunday when his commercial flight to Moscow was forced to return to New York after one of the plane’s engines shut down. DiCaprio “wishes to commend the actions of the pilot and flight crew in bringing the plane to a safe landing,” the actor’s representative said in a statement.
Russia’s tough-guy Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the Hollywood heart-throb a “real man” for his persistence after hearing news that his plane caught fire on the way to a summit on tigers in Putin’s native city Saint Petersburg.
“I would like to thank you for coming despite all the obstacles,” Putin told a smiling DiCaprio.”A person with less-stable nerves could have decided against coming, could have read it as a sign that it was not worth going,” Putin said during an extended departure from his prepared remarks. The Russian prime minister said the star had “literally tore his way through to Saint Petersburg.”
DiCaprio was among the passengers on a Delta Airline jet that was forced to make an emergency landing in New York on Monday after losing an engine. His second plane faced strong headwinds and was required to make an unscheduled refueling stop in Helsinki, Putin told the audience.
“This is not even funny,” said Putin with a smile. “In our country, they have a saying – a real man,” he concluded. Putin has carefully cultivated a tough-guy image throughout his political career, using strong language in speeches and practicing judo and even co-piloting fighter jets in front of the television cameras.
DiCaprio’s $1 million donation will help support anti-poaching efforts and protect critical tiger forests where the needs are most urgent.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The 13 countries where tigers still exist are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.