DeGeneres raises $5 million for gorilla conservation in Rwanda

Ellen DeGeneres and her partner Portia de Rossi pose besides a mountain gorilla in Volcanoes National Park during their visit to Rwanda in May 2018. (Courtesy)

Celebrated American comedian and television host Ellen DeGeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi over the weekend organised a fundraiser that raised over $5 million (about Rwf4.6 billion) for gorilla conservation in Rwanda.

Proceeds from the ‘Gorillapalooza’ fundraiser will go into The Ellen Fund, which is dedicated to conservation efforts particularly for Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.

The proceeds by far exceeded the initial target, she said.

The comedian is building a campus in Rwanda, Ellen DeGeneres’ Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

“We were hoping to raise $2 million. That didn’t happen. We raised $5 million. This is so important because there are only 1,000 mountain gorillas left (in the world),” she said later at her popular TV show, The Ellen Show.

Sharing the details of what happened during the event, DeGeneres named A-listers in the entertainment industry who graced and donated during the fundraiser.

They included Chris Martin, who filled in at the last minute for Miley Cyrus to perform for the audience; James Corden, who co-hosted with her a live auction, and Julia Roberts and Sofía Vergara who tried to outbid each other for her “12 Days of Giveaways” (festive season tickets).

From the videos shared online, the live auction kicked off with James Corden asking participants on each table to point to the richest person sitting on every table. The participants were bidding for tickets to attend the “12 Days of Giveaways.”

During DeGeneres’ 12 Days of Giveaways, the comedian lavishes her audiences, for a period of 12 days, with exciting prize packages including electronics, gift cards, and Netflix subscriptions.

The first bidder set $25,000 before Diane Keaton increased the value to $30,000 and Julia Roberts hiked the price further to $50,000. But Sofía Vergara did not want Roberts to run away with the ticket so she offered $55,000.

The bidding went on between Vergara and Roberts until Sofía Vergara set the last amount at $85,000.

L-R: Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres and Clare Akamanzi, the chief executive of Rwanda Development Board, pose with Visit Rwanda placards during the couple’s visit to Rwanda in 2018. Courtesy. 

According to DeGeneres, however, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Kendall Jenner, Sean Hayes, and Diane Keaton all donated towards the comedian’s cause to save the endangered mountain gorillas.

The campus was first announced last year as a gift to DeGeneres from her long-time partner de Rossi. It would later make Ellen embark on a first trip to Rwanda to physically witness the legacy of the late Dian Fossey in service of mountain gorillas.

Since then, Ellen, who’s also passionate about animal conservation, has been raising awareness and mobilising resources toward creating the first and the largest campus dedicated to research in conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas.

The campus will be home to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund which has been operating in Rwanda for more than 50 years through its Karisoke Research Centre, based in Musanze District, Northern Province.

The Fossey Fund is the world’s longest-running and largest organisation dedicated entirely to the conservation of gorillas.

It works in areas of conservation of mountain gorillas and their habitat, scientific research on the gorillas and greater biodiversity of the region, educating the next generation of African scientists through working with Rwandan universities, and engaging local communities to increase their support for conservation.

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