JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia's environment and forestry minister says Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio lacked complete information when he criticized the destruction of rainforests during a visit to a protected national park last month.
His comments prompted immigration officials to warn that DiCaprio could be barred from re-entering Indonesia, but the minister, Siti Nurbaya, said Monday that she appreciates his good intentions and hopes to cooperate with him in the future.
The Hollywood star made a one-day visit to Mount Leuser National Park in northern Sumatra and uploaded photos to his Instagram account, expressing concerns over species whose habitats are threatened by palm oil plantations.
But the apparent effort to raise awareness about endangered animals and burnish the star's environmental credentials quickly went awry. The Indonesian government, meanwhile, has appeared inept, with officials making conflicting statements.
Nurbaya said it was "rather unfortunate" that DiCaprio had not obtained comprehensive information about issues such as deforestation in Indonesia.
The current government is "working hard" to protect the environment, including prosecution of companies that violate environmental laws and creating an inventory of areas at risk of deforestation, Nurbaya said. "We are fixing the problems" of the past decade, she said.
Slash-and-burn practices destroy huge areas of Indonesian forest every year during the dry season, creating haze that pollutes neighboring countries and causes massive economic losses. The fires are often set to clear land for agriculture, including palm oil plantations, and threaten the habitats of species such as elephants and Sumatran tigers.
Nurbaya said she had not been informed in advance about DiCaprio's visit to Sumatra but subsequent checks showed he had followed proper procedures and was accompanied by forestry officials.
"I sincerely appreciate his concern, and we can cooperate with him in more detail on the forests, wildlife and the environment for the benefit of Indonesia," she said.
A representative for DiCaprio declined to comment.