DiCaprio visits Indonesian jungle to support environmentalists

Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio (R) poses with elephants at the Leuser National Park in Indonesia's Aceh province, in a picture taken on March 26, 2016 and released by the Foundation of Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh (AFP Photo/)

Jakarta (AFP) - Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio has visited the Indonesian jungle to help protect a biodiverse area from deforestation.

Fresh from clinching his long-awaited first Oscar last month, DiCaprio spent the weekend in the Leuser ecosystem, on Indonesia's main western island of Sumatra.

The actor, an ardent supporter of environmental causes, was pictured accompanied by local environmentalists and flanked by two critically endangered Sumatran elephants.

The elephants are among a dizzying array of rare animals who live in Leuser's dense rainforests.

DiCaprio said on his Instagram account that his foundation, which supports numerous environmental projects, was backing local groups to establish a "mega-fauna sanctuary" in the area.

He described the area as "the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants coexist in the wild".

Local green activist Farwiza Fahan, who met DiCaprio on his visit, said the sanctuary was aimed at giving more protection to the area, but the plan was still in the early stages.

Like much of Indonesia's rainforests, the area is under threat from the aggressive expansion of palm oil and pulp and paper plantations, while endangered animals are targeted by poachers and locals who view them as pests.

But the area faces an additional threat after authorities in the province of Aceh -- which includes much of the Leuser ecosystem -- pushed through a plan to open up new swathes of virgin forest for commercial exploitation and lay roads.

The central government in Jakarta, which must approve such locally made plans, has asked Aceh to revise it, but activists claim that local authorities are pushing ahead with it regardless.

DiCaprio, who attended the COP21 climate change talks in Paris last year, has been raising the alarm on global warming since 1998 when he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

He won the best actor Oscar for his role in the "The Revenant", a film about a 19th century fur trapper filmed under extreme winter conditions in Canada and Argentina.