Leonardo DiCaprio Responds to Claim He's Responsible for Amazon Rainforest Fires

Hollywood start and self-described environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio responded to accusations that he is responsible for funding the fires burning through the Amazon rainforest. The accusation was made without evidence by Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil. DiCaprio responded with a statement on his Instagram account. "At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage," he wrote. "They are an amazing, moving and humbling example of the commitment and passion needed to save the environment. The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them. While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted.

"I remain committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators and general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon for the future of all Brazilians."

According to Reuters, Bolsonaro has been on social media claiming that the World Wildlife Fund was paying volunteer firefighters for photos that the organization could then use to appeal to donors for more money. Bolsonaro claimed DiCaprio donated $500,000 towards these efforts. During a live webcast, Bolsonaro said, "So what did the NGO do? What is the easiest thing? Set fire to the forest. Take pictures, make a video. (WWF) makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000." Bolosonaro also made a comment in front of the presidential residence, saying "This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon."

The WWF denied both that it had obtained photos from the firefighters and that DiCaprio had made any donation. DiCaprio has spoken in public about environmental issues, including the Amazon forest fires. His Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation seeks to "protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction." The foundation is a part of the Earth Alliance.

Four members of the Alter do Chão Fire Brigade, a nongovernmental organization, were arrested on Tuesday. Police accused them of setting fire to the Amazon on purpose in order to increase donations. A judge ordered their release on Thursday/ The arrest has been criticized by politicians and other NGOs as being Bolsonaro's latest attempt to curb environmentalist actions in the region.


In contrast to Bolsonaro's claims that the fires were set by environmentalists, activists and scientists suggest that speculators, farmers, and ranchers who have been clearing Amazon land for use in agriculture are to blame. Bolsonaro has campaigned on supporting farmers over environmental preservation, despite the rainforest being a key tool in the planet's attempt to minimize the effects of climate change.

Photo by Christopher Jue/Getty Images