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Call of the Tiger: Actor DiCaprio Pledges $1 Million
Leonardo DiCaprio helps WWF set up a camera trap to study tigers in Nepal
Credit: Vertefeuille/WWF.

As world leaders gather for a historic summit to save tigers from extinction, actor Leonardo DiCaprio today (Nov. 23) committed $1 million to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for urgent tiger conservation efforts.

DiCaprio will attend this week's summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, alongside conservation groups, major donor organizations, and government representatives from the 13 Asian nations where tigers still survive in the wild.

Across Asia, tiger numbers have dropped from 100,000 at the beginning of the last century to as few as 3,200 today. One goal of summit attendees is to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Year of Tiger, according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

DiCaprio, along with other celebrities and high-profile figures , has been a vocal supporter of the tiger's cause. The actor is a board member of the conservation group WWF, and recently visited Nepal and Bhutan with WWF experts, touring tiger habitats on elephant back alongside anti-poaching staff, meeting with community members, and learning how WWF scientists monitor the park's tigers.

"Illegal poaching of tigers for their parts and massive habitat loss due to palm oil, timber and paper production are driving this species to extinction," DiCaprio said in a statement.

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DiCaprio's donation will help support anti-poaching efforts and protect critical tiger forests where the needs are most urgent. The WWF is targeting the funds to 12 priority regions the conservation group believes are vital for maintaining tiger populations in the wild.

If we don't take action now, one of the most iconic animals on our planet could be gone in just a few decades. By saving tigers, we can also protect some of our last remaining ancient forests and improve the lives of indigenous communities," DiCaprio said.

The actor's trip to the Tiger Summit got off to an unpleasant start. DiCaprio was aboard the Moscowbound Delta flight out of JFK Airport in New York that suffered engine failure shortly after takeoff last Sunday (Nov. 21), dumped its fuel in the Atlantic, and made an emergency landing. Nobody onboard the plane was hurt.

The Tiger Summit wraps up tomorrow (Nov. 24), and there is hope the meeting will result in a workable, adequately funded plan to save the big cats before they disappear from the wild.