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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Passionate Plea To Save Our Animals

The Game of Thrones actor shares his hopes and fears for the future of our precious wildlife

I grew up in a tiny farming village in Denmark with a population of 40. I spent most of my childhood exploring outside in the fields and forests. There were always pets running around, cats, dogs, canary birds and fish (which every so often ended up in the toilet, unfortunately).

Now I live in California with my wife and two daughters. LA can feel like it’s nothing but cars, but if you spend a little time exploring, you can find some astounding landscapes. We have two dogs, Miller and Stella, one is a rescue and the other is a Yorkipoo [Yorkshire terrier cross poodle]. She’s a furry rat.

It’s impossible for me to imagine a world without animals. When I found out that we’re facing our sixth mass extinction with one million species at risk of being wiped out, I was shocked. I couldn’t wrap my head around the scale of that. We have to rethink the way we use the resources on this planet because it’s taking its toll. We need to protect the planet’s biodiversity – everyone can agree on that. The UNDP is working to address the climate crisis and I’ve been a goodwill ambassador with them for [almost] four years, raising awareness and support for climate action. We launched The Lion’s Share Fund two years ago. It’s a simple idea: when a company uses an animal in their ads, we ask them to dedicate 0.5 per cent of their advertising budget to conservation. About 20 per cent of all ads feature animals, but they’re not compensated like a model or actor, because they don’t have bank accounts. 

The Lion’s Share Fund has huge potential to make a real impact – and they’re doing so already. In Mozambique, they’ve equipped rangers with new communication equipment to help fight elephant poaching; they went from 200 elephants being killed to zero. In Indonesia, they’ve purchased palm oil plantations and are restoring them back to rainforest to re-create lost habitat. And in Australia, they’ve donated funds to the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital to help with the treatment and rehabilitation of injured wildlife after the bushfire crisis.

We’re at the beginning of extreme climate change, and we need to put the brakes on and change the course before it’s too late. There needs to be a shift – and I am hopeful it will happen. If you look at what we’ve been able to create as a species in the past 100 years, I absolutely believe we will be able to find solutions and change our ways. Initiatives such as The Lion’s Share Fund give me hope. So, too, does [environmental activist ] Greta Thunberg. I’m in awe of what she’s done and achieved. And how the hell she can be calm and collected under intense pressure, and still be so clear in her message? I think she’s proof individual people can have an impact.

I hope my children and grandchildren will have the same joy of being on this planet as we have had. I want a future where humans coexist with the rest of the planet’s animals and plants. There’s room for all of us.

This article originally appeared in the May issue of marie claire: on sale now. 

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