Indonesia Threatens to Ban Leonardo DiCaprio Over Palm Oil Criticism

The actor and environmental activist’s social media posts about the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem have angered the government.
(Photo: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images; inset: C. Flanigan/FilmMagic/Getty Images)
Apr 1, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

In February during his Oscar acceptance speech, Leonardo DiCaprio told a television audience of 34 million that climate change was “the most urgent threat facing our entire species.” It’s a message the longtime environmental activist regularly sends to his 15.1 million Twitter and 5.4 million Instagram followers, with posts about everything from the retreat of glaciers to 2015 being the hottest year on record.

Now a series of posts DiCaprio uploaded this week that turned the spotlight on the environmental and wildlife destruction being caused by Indonesia’s palm oil industry have the actor under investigation by that nation’s government.

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DiCaprio, who was in Indonesia, has reportedly departed the country, according to EcoWatch.

“If DiCaprio’s posting in his social media can be categorized as incitement or provocation [against the government], we can blacklist him from coming back to Indonesia,” Heru Santoso, a spokesman for the director general of Indonesia’s immigration department, told BBC News on Friday.

DiCaprio, who arrived in Sumatra last week, posted a series of images on Instagram snapped in the rainforest in the island’s Leuser Ecosystem. The area is threatened because palm oil producers looking for more land to harvest African oil palm trees slash and burn the natural vegetation. While the smoke from the fires heavily pollutes the air across Southeast Asia, DiCaprio’s posts also point out that this activity has significantly endangered wildlife, such as Sumatran orangutans and elephants.

As the rainforest “is cleared to meet demand for Palm Oil, the critically endangered Sumatran #orangutan is being pushed to the brink of extinction,” wrote DiCaprio in the caption of a photo uploaded to Instagram on Thursday. “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,” he continued.

Two other photos the actor uploaded earlier in the week showed endangered Sumatran elephants and DiCaprio standing with a group of activists holding a sign that reads “Save the Leuser Ecosystem.”

On Twitter on Tuesday, DiCaprio shared the snap of himself with the activists, along with the link to a petition demanding that Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo take action against the destruction of the ecosystem.

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DiCaprio has offered no public comment about the statement from the Indonesian official. Meanwhile, according to his Instagram, his foundation, which focuses on environmental issues, plans to build a wildlife refuge in the Leuser Ecosystem.