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Leonardo DiCaprio backs Edinburgh conservation project

The Hollywood star has donated $50,000 to the Edinburgh Napier University scheme.

Funding: Star's foundation protects the environment.
Funding: Star's foundation protects the environment.

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio has donated tens of thousands to an Edinburgh Napier University conservation project in Kenya.

The university initiative received $50,000 (£37, 035) in a round of grants from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which were announced by the film star at a conference at Yale University.

Mikoko Pamoja, which means "Mangroves Together" in Swahili, involves Edinburgh-based scientists working with local villagers and researchers to protect threatened mangrove forests and fund community development.

The project in Gazi Bay, 31 miles south of Mombasa, was recently awarded a prize from the United Nations Development Programme.

Now The Revenant and Wolf of Wall Street actor has announced funding of $50,000 from the foundation he established to try to repeat the project's success in the Vanga Blue Forest area of the east African country.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation works with environmental experts, organisations and philanthropists to protect threatened ecosystems.

Addressing a Yale climate change conference last week, hosted by former US secretary of state John Kerry's Kerry Initiative, DiCaprio said they were proud to support the environmental work of more than 100 organisations at home and abroad.

'This support from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will help us expand our efforts to Vanga, the largest mangrove forest in southern Kenya.'
Prof Mark Huxham

He said: "These grantees are active on the ground, protecting our oceans, forests and endangered species for future generations - and tackling the urgent, existential challenges of climate change."

Mangrove forests protect coastal communities from storms and tsunamis and are efficient natural carbon and store CO2 at up to five times the rate of tropical rainforests. They also form an important habitat for fish and wildlife.

They are being destroyed at an alarming rate, however, threatening the livelihoods of local farmers and fishermen and triggering the release of greenhouse gases.

The Mikoko Pamoja project has involved Edinburgh Napier staff and students working with local authorities in Gazi Bay to explore the ecological value of mangroves and methods of helping the ecosystem recover.

Professor Mark Huxham, who is leading Edinburgh Napier's work in the area, said: "Protecting mangroves helps the people who rely on them, the wildlife that lives in them and the climate upon which we all depend.

"We have shown how scientists, government and local people can work together to conserve forests and improve lives at Gazi, our current site."

He added: "This support from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will help us expand our efforts to Vanga, the largest mangrove forest in southern Kenya, where local people have asked for our help in securing their forest for the future.

"The new funding will directly support a democratic community organisation which will mobilise volunteers and staff in tree protection, conservation monitoring, education and investment in local development.

"We are grateful for the support and confident that our model of grassroots engagement combined with the sale of unique carbon credits will succeed here."

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