Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio may be banned from returning to Indonesia over his criticisms that palm oil plantations are destroying the country's rainforests and endangering wildlife.
The Oscar winner made a one-day visit to protected Mount Leuser National Park in northern Sumatra last weekend and uploaded photos to his Instagram account, expressing concerns over species whose habitats are threatened.
In these forests, ancient elephant migratory paths are still used by some of the last #wild herds of Sumatran elephants. But the expansion of Palm Oil plantations is fragmenting the #forest and cutting off key elephant migratory corridors, making it more difficult for elephant families to find adequate sources of food and water. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is supporting local partners to establish a mega-fauna sanctuary in the Leuser Ecosystem, last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants coexist in the wild. Click the link in the bio to stand with @haka_sumatra as they fight to protect the Leuser Ecosystem. #SaveLeuserEcosystem #Indonesia
"The expansion of palm oil plantations is fragmenting the forest and cutting off key elephant migration corridors," he posted. "A world-class biodiversity hotspot, but palm oil expansion is destroying this unique place."
Heru Santoso, the spokesman for the Directorate General for Immigration at the Law and Human Rights Ministry, said that DiCaprio used his visit to discredit the palm oil industry and the Indonesian government.
A world-class biodiversity hotspot, the #Indonesian Leuser Ecosystem is one of the most important areas of intact #rainforest left in Southeast Asia. Its forests are home to the densest remaining populations of the critically endangered Sumatran #orangutan. But Palm Oil expansion is destroying this unique place. Now is the time to save the Leuser Ecosystem. We must develop a permanent solution to protect and restore this valuable natural asset. Click the link in the bio to stand up and #SaveLeuserEcosystem. #Indonesia
"We support his concern to save the Leuser ecosystem," Santoso said. "But we can blacklist him from returning to Indonesia at any time if he keeps posting incitement or provocative statements in his social media."
Slash-and-burn practices destroy huge areas of Indonesian forest every year during the dry season, creating haze that pollutes neighbouring countries and causes massive economic losses as well as contributing to Indonesia's carbon dioxide emissions. The fires are often set to clear land for agriculture, including palm oil plantations.
Santoso said companies and organisations that objected to DiCaprio's comments have the right to request that immigration authorities bar him from reentering Indonesia, though none have done so yet.
He said DiCaprio entered and left Indonesia legally with a proper visa and immigration documentation. DiCaprio and his entourage arrived on a private jet at Kualanamu Airport on the island of Sumatra on March 26, and the group took a helicopter to the protected park, and left the island a day later.
As the forest of the #Indonesian #LeuserEcosystem continues to be cleared to meet demand for Palm Oil, the critically endangered Sumatran #orangutan is being pushed to the brink of extinction. Here, at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme's Orangutan Quarantine Center, rescued orangutans are rehabilitated so they can be released back into the wild. If we don't stop this rampant destruction, the Leuser Ecosystem and the Sumatran orangutans that call it home could be lost forever. Click the link in the bio to support this important work. #Indonesia
DiCaprio is not the first Hollywood star to anger Indonesia's government with criticism of how it treats the environment.
Harrison Ford, known for his starring roles in the Indiana Jones and Star Wars films, has visited several national parks and caused a stir by interviewing activists, businesspeople and government officials.