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Leonardo DiCaprio shows support for Sumatran orangutan conservation program

Apriadi Gunawan

The Jakarta Post

Medan, North Sumatra  /  Sat, July 18, 2020  /  02:09 pm
Leonardo DiCaprio shows support for Sumatran orangutan conservation program

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio arrives at a restaurant for an initiative on helping the homeless in Edinburgh, Scotland, ahead of his appearance at the Scottish Business Awards on Nov. 17, 2016. (AFP/Andy Buchanan)

American actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio has shown his support for a campaign that aims to protect Sumatran orangutans from the coronavirus.

“We don't yet know if non-human primates can contract COVID-19, but the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme isn't taking any chances. Unfortunately, these necessary precautions are making it harder for the island's only orangutan reintroduction program to continue crucial conservation work,” reads the caption of his Instagram post.

DiCaprio visited the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) in North Sumatra in 2016.

SOCP director Ian Singleton said that the species was critically endangered and shared 97 percent of human DNA, which gave the organization concerns over whether orangutans were at risk of infection.

Ian said that the SOCP was currently handling more orangutans than normal at its quarantine and rehabilitation center. The organization is applying preventive measures such as improving its cleaning procedures and preparing for more medical care. 

To cover these measures, along with purchasing food and medicine for the orangutans and protective gear for its staff, the SOCP is raising donations until Sunday through

“So far, we have received face masks, gloves and hazmat suits. The SOCP is very grateful for all who have helped,” said Ian.

The conservation program began its activities in 1999 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the PanEco Foundation, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the Indonesian Forestry Ministry’s Forest Protection and Nature Conservation Directorate General. One of its first targets was to establish a modern, state-of-the-art quarantine facility for confiscated illegal pets and a reintroduction program to release these animals back into the wild. 

In May last year, DiCaprio posted a photo of the Bantar Gebang landfill in Bekasi, West Java, on his Instagram account to raise concerns about plastic waste and its dangers. The actor is known for his environmentally conscious efforts, from starting the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation dedicated to supporting various biodiversity-preservation projects to making in the 2016 documentary Before the Flood, which focuses on climate change issues.

The documentary featured Mount Leuser National Park in Aceh, a UNESCO World Heritage site that covers thousands of hectares of protected forest in Aceh and North Sumatra. The park’s ecosystem is threatened by a high rate of deforestation. (wng)