The increasing strain faced by the world’s delicate ecosystems has been well documented over the last few decades. The Living Planet Index estimates that worldwide biodiversity declined by 52% between 1970 and 2010 thanks, in large part, to humans hunting, logging, polluting and overpopulating the natural world. There are currently 41,415 species of animals and plants included on IUCN’s Red List of threatened species, and the loss of any one could have dramatic and far-reaching global consequences.
Governments and charities are working to arrest this decline, but more recently, celebrity philanthropists have joined the battle too by buying swathes of threatened habitat in order to protect or enhance it.
One celebrity who has committed to conserving a natural habitat is Leonardo DiCaprio. In partnership with property developer Paul Scialla, he purchased Blackadore Caye, a 104-acre island off the coast of Belize, a decade ago with the intention to create a ‘restorative island’. Overfishing, deforestation and an eroding coastline threatened to destroy this habitat, which supports mangrove and palm trees, and more than 400 species of fish live in the nearby coral reefs.
The eco resort is set to open in 2018, but DiCaprio intends for the island to be actively restorative as opposed to simply environmentally friendly. The 68 guest villas and 48 homes will be built on a platform that acts as an artificial reef, protecting native species of fish. A nursery for indigenous marine grass will be created to help restore the manatee population, and mangroves are to be replanted, with invasive species removed and replaced by those that are native to the island.
Creating space for conservation
Finding the balance between conservation and agriculture is a key challenge facing conservationists, and some philanthropists have attempted to reconcile these differences by promoting a style of sustainable land management. Wall Street billionaire Carl Ferenbach bought 700 acres of neglected farmland in Windham Country, Vermont, and is working to restore it and use it for farming. He and his wife sell the products they sustainably produce: maple syrup, timber, hay and perennial grasses that can be used as biofuel.
In the UK, conservation has been taken a step further, with privately-owned land being turned over to ‘re-wilding’ projects’ that aim to provide habitats for species that are struggling or, in some cases, extinct in the wild. British millionaire Paul Lister, MFI heir and owner of the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland, has already re-introduced elk and wild boar to the 23,000-acre estate and plans to go further, bringing back wolves and bears.
Purchasing land with the intention to conserve it has become more commonplace, and it can be a wise investment. Following the models of DiCaprio and Ferenbach by investing in a sustainable business will add value to the land while protecting it and conserving its ecosystem for the future. It is a low-risk investment with potential to increase in value, but unlike buying bonds or gold, it provides an opportunity to contribute to the preservation of the planet’s biodiversity.
If you’re looking to purchase land or real estate, contact Engel & Völkers. Our portfolio contains land that could be perfect for your own conservational projects, and help safeguard biodiversity for future generations.