Leonardo DiCaprio Throws Weight Behind Elephants 1Leonardo DiCaprio is heading a campaign to shut down ivory trading, which is thriving despite a long-standing international ban and taking a toll on elephants. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is organizing the effort.

The campaign, launched this week as part of an annual international education program, is targeting seven million teachers, students and their families in more than 15 countries.

DiCaprio serves as the global ambassador for the program, which highlights a different animal and conservation theme each year.

“The ivory trade fuels conflict and strife,” the actor said in a statement.

“Elephants are killed by poachers so their tusks can be traded for weapons and drugs by international criminal organizations before becoming trinkets and jewelry for consumers.

“Authorities in 85 countries have seized almost 400 tons of ivory on the black market since the 1989 ivory trade ban,” he said.

This year the campaign’s theme is “Elephants, Never Forget,” and focuses on the crisis that elephants face 20 years after the enactment of an international ban ivory trading.

While elephant populations started to recover following the ban, lax oversight over the past several years has led to an increase in poaching in several African countries.

In the past century, the number of elephants in the wild has declined by a staggering 50 percent.

“Many people around the world still have no idea that elephants are killed for their ivory tusks, and that’s why public education is so important,” DiCaprio added.

“There were 1.3 million elephants in 1979; rampant poaching and other factors have reduced that by more than half, to an estimated 500,000.”

DiCaprio starred in the 2006 political action drama “Blood Diamond,” which focused on the use of African diamonds to fund brutal civil wars on the continent.