Famous American comedienne, television personality and actor, Ellen DeGeneres will soon set up a facility in Rwanda for Dian Fossey’s work to help protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains.
This was revealed during the comedian’s 60th birthday anniversary when Portia de Rossi, DeGeneres’ wife, made a surprise appearance at the show.
De Rossi, also an American and Australian actor and philanthropist, presented the facility as a gift to DeGeneres, who is a renowned supporter of the work by late Dian Fossey, an American scientist who studied gorillas in Africa.
Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda to observe and protect mountain gorillas.
The ‘Ellen DeGeneres Campus’ of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund will help Ellen carry on Dian’s legacy by giving the centre a permanent home in Rwanda, while empowering the people living near the gorillas habitat to thrive in relationship to their own ecosystem, Rossi said during the show.
“Now, you will join Dian as a protector and champion of these amazing animals, the mountain gorillas,” De Rossi added.
The campus will be the first initiative of The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund, a foundation de Rossi set up in her wife’s name. The foundation’s main goal will be to protect and advocate for the world’s most vulnerable animals and wildlife.
DeGeneres, who is known for her popular talk show, The Ellen Show, is expected to be in the country this next summer together with de Rossi, according to the information published on her official website.
“This summer, Ellen and Portia will embark on a journey to Rwanda, where she will plan and design her dream centre. With over 50,000 square feet of building space, Ellen will help create an atmosphere and environment that will focus on conservation, inspiration and education,” reads part of the information on the website.
It adds that; “The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund will open new doors for endangered species, and this is just the beginning.”
The statement does not reveal when the centre will officially open doors.
Rwanda welcomed the initiative with officials pledging that they will support DeGeneres to meet her targets in Rwanda.
Clare Akamanzi, the chief executive officer of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), told The New Times that they are already aware of the project, and that they are committed to support DeGeneres’ work in Rwanda.
“We think that getting someone with both passion and network like DeGeneres is a very important step in our conservation work. One of the factors of our success in conservation has been how we work with partners,” she said.
She added that they were already aware of the Ellen DeGeneres’ upcoming project, and that the government pledged to work with her to make sure that their efforts in Rwanda’s conservation are successful.
“We are very happy about the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund, and we will support it to meet its objectives in Rwanda,” she noted.
According to the information from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the campus will help expand science, research and conservation activities, enhance educational programs, and engage people around Rwanda and the world to join the effort on behalf of wild gorillas.
Its design will include laboratories, classrooms, meeting space, an interactive exhibit focusing on Fossey’s work, and housing for visiting researchers and students.
The President and CEO of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Tara Stoinski, said the campus will serve as a brilliant focal point for their efforts to protect wild gorillas over the next decades.