Researchers announced on Thursday that they have named a new tree species after actor Leonardo DiCaprio in order to honor his work to help save the world’s rainforests.
DiCaprio is well known for being a champion of environmentally conscious causes in charities, having campaigned to protect the Ebo rainforest in central Africa in 2020.
It was in that very rainforest where researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the United Kingdom discovered the new tree, which is located in the African country of Cameroon. The tree will be officially known as Uvariopsis dicaprio.
The researchers believe that DiCaprio’s efforts were key in helping the survival of the famously biodiverse forest: “We think he was crucial in helping to stop the logging of the Ebo forest,” Kew botanist Martin Cheek told the BBC.
Logging, the practice of chopping down and exporting trees, is notorious for releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; it has a devastating effect on rainforests as well as the rest of the environment.
The 47-year-old leading man worked tirelessly to protect the Ebo forest in 2020, drawing widespread attention to the issue by posting petitions on his social media. DiCaprio’s campaign helped experts around the world, who collectively wrote a letter to the Cameroonian government conveying the importance of preserving the biodiversity in the Ebo forest. The government chose to cancel the planned logging.
The tree is a tropical evergreen replete with yellow flowers at its base. A member of the ylang ylang plant family, and scientists have already designated it as “critically endangered.”
Cheek explained to the BBC that researchers are racing to find and classify new species in order to prevent them from going extinct:
“There are still thousands of plant species and maybe millions of fungal species out there that we don’t know about,” he said. “This natural habitat that they’re growing in — especially forests, but other habitats, too — is increasingly and more rapidly being destroyed by us humans without knowing what’s there.”
Leonardo DiCaprio explains the pressing environmental concerns at the heart of “Don’t Look Up”
DiCaprio recently starred in the new film “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix, an allegory on the impending consequences of climate change.
The six-time Academy Award nominee explained that Don’t Look Up, in a nutshell, is “an analogy of modern-day culture and our inability to hear and listen to scientific truth.”
In the film, he plays an increasingly frustrated scientist who realizes that, even though he’s discovered that an oversized comet is heading towards Earth, the general public and the authorities won’t do anything about it.
DiCaprio goes on to remind us that a lot of people don’t want to hear about climate change, even though evidence of its effects can be seen every year with increasing ferocity. DiCaprio also commended director Adam McKay for taking on the task of making a film about it and giving it a dark comedy tone, which shines a light on the issue through satire.
“I loved the way that he ended this film because it makes us take a hard look at where we’re ultimately going, and the fact that a lot of this stuff is slowly becoming irreversible,” DiCaprio says.
“We have this very finite window of 10 years to make this transition. If we are not voting for leaders or supporting everything that has to do with climate mitigation, we are going to have a fate very similar to these characters (in the film)”, he added.