In his latest project, the “Wolf of Wall Street” is focused on the manatees of Belize.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio plans to turn a 104-acre private island in Belize into a game-changing new model for eco-tourism around the world.

When it opens in 2018, the resort and conservation areas on Blackadore Caye will host both tourists and scientists, while creating habitat for marine life, and restoring native species both on the island and in the water around it – including manatees.

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“The main focus is to do something that will change the world,” DiCaprio told the New York Times. “I couldn’t have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this, if it weren’t for the idea that it could be groundbreaking in the environmental movement.”

Shortly after his first visit to the Central American country in 2005, Dicaprio bought Blackadore Caye for $1.75 million – then spent nearly ten years looking for the right developer to create a new model for eco-tourism resorts.

He finally partnered with Paul Scialla, the chief executive of Delos, a New York developer, and architect Jason McLennan, head of McLennan Design and founder of the Living Building Challenge.

The island has been uninhabited for as long as anyone can remember. But the damage around the cay has been significant–waters overfished and trees cut down by fisherman who want to smoke their catches.

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DiCaprio’s plan is to clear invasive plant species from the island and replant native mangrove trees. A nursery will grow marine grass to support a manatee conservation area.

A series of 68 villas will rest on platforms built in the water off the island’s shore, creating artificial reefs for fish and other marine life. There will be 48 houses — costing between $5 million and $15 million — built on the beach. One of those houses has already been auctioned off for charity — raising $11 million for global wildlife conservation through the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

At least 45% of the island will be reserved as conservation areas, promoting the growth of native plants and animals.

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Eco-tourism is big business for Belize, worth about $196 million a year and accounting for 15% of the country’s gross domestic product. While most of the visits support existing wilderness and wildlife reserves, DiCaprio’s plan is to restore a place that has been damaged by human overuse.

While most eco-tourism is meant to leave a limited footprint–or no footprint– on the environment, DiCaprio wants to actually heal a habitat that had been abused, by building a resort that restores.

– Photo: McLennan Design

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