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Leonardo DiCaprio love: Celebrity fans drive huge spike in donations to New Zealand conservation projects

Leonardo DiCaprio praised the Kiwi Capital Project, which traps predators and releases kiwi on a large plot of land in the Wellington region.

Leonardo DiCaprio posted about kiwi conservation this week to his 62 million Instagram followers.
Photo: RNZ/AFP

Having celebrities speak out about New Zealand’s conservation efforts has been a boon for birds, generating more than a million dollars in donations.

On Wednesday, American actor Leonardo DiCaprio praised his 62.1 million Instagram followers for The Capital Kiwi Project, which traps predators and releases kiwi on a large plot of land in the Wellington region.

Leonardo DiCaprio posted on his Instagram about the Capital Kiwi project in Wellington.

Leonardo DiCaprio posted on his Instagram about the Capital Kiwi project in Wellington.
Photo: Screenshot

It has so far released 110 kiwis in Wellington and Porirua, and plans to release 16 more on Mount Karori next week.

Capital Kiwi has since gained thousands of new followers on Instagram, and founder Paul Ward told RNZ there had been an increase in donations and hundreds of dollars had since been received.

DiCaprio also previously posted about hatching 18 kakī chicks as part of a Department of Conservation project.

Emma Dent from The Nature Conservancy Aotearoa New Zealand said it can be difficult for conservation organizations to get recognition for the work they do.

“Anything that generates a positive focus on a project is welcome.

“Comments from people with the high profile of Leonardo DiCaprio, who are advocates of nature, are certainly a good way to draw attention to an issue when it is something that the person cares deeply about and we can see that it aligns with their values. “.

Last year, the BBC Our frozen planet aired a 12-minute short film about The Nature Conservancy’s project that restores habitats and protects threatened species.

“This generated a lot of interest in the project as it helps bring it to life for potential donors,” Dent said.

“We’ve had a couple of larger, unexpected international donations since the show screened, and hundreds of thousands of views.”

A shot from American comedian John Oliver's segment on New Zealand's Bird of the Year.

A shot from American comedian John Oliver’s segment on the New Zealand Bird of the Year on November 5, 2023.
Photo: Screenshot

John Oliver’s bird offered a million-dollar blessing

Forest and Bird has now received $1.18 million since British comedian John Oliver campaigned for the pūteketeke to win the Bird of the Century award last year.

The campaign included billboards in New Zealand, England, France, India and the United States, promoting their program. Last week tonight and an appearance in The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon dressed in a complete grebe costume.

Chief executive Nicola Toki said the campaign shed global light on the threats facing our native birdlife and, as a result, tens of thousands of people from 195 countries voted and donated.

“We had a lot more people involved in learning more about our birds, what threatens them and therefore what we need to do to care for them.”

Toki said he wasn’t surprised New Zealand had attracted global attention to our wildlife, especially from celebrities like Oliver and DiCaprio, but said it should serve as a reminder that the world is watching how we care for them.

“The rest of the world is very interested in our weird and wonderful native wildlife, particularly our birds, here in New Zealand, and they expect us to look after them.

“It’s important to recognize that we’re in a bit of a precarious state with nature in New Zealand at the moment, and that’s something we shouldn’t lose sight of.”

New Zealand’s most recent environmental survey by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research showed there was a disconnect between perceptions and the actual state of the environment.

“The trend over the last 10 years has been that more and more of our species are threatened,” Toki said.

“We have become a bit lackadaisical and over the last decade we seem to think our wildlife is doing well.

“It turns out it’s not, and that’s because there aren’t enough people engaged with what’s really happening.

“This is important from a national perspective, but also internationally as far as our reputation is concerned.”

“They are very important to us”

Two North Island brown kiwi chicks have hatched in the Wellington wilderness for the first time in 150 years.

Two North Island brown kiwi chicks have hatched in the Wellington wilderness for the first time in 150 years.
Photo: Kiwi project supplied/capital

Kiwi Capital’s Paul Ward said it was surreal to wake up to a bunch of notifications and see that Leonardo DiCaprio had “shared our kaupapa with his 60 million social media followers”.

“As well as reaching a huge global audience, it made me very proud of the work the team, communities, iwi and landowners have put into the project over the last seven or eight years.

“There are many challenges we face, both in our own lives and on the world stage, and this is a story of hope and one that shows what is possible when people put aside their differences and work together around a shared goal.

“I think that’s why our new friend Leonardo and others have picked it up. The New York Times and The Guardian I did a piece a couple of weeks ago.

“Another factor is how absolutely unique kiwis are as animals.

“There is a reason why they are a treasured part of our identity and why they are so important to us as a people.”