POPULAR American TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is scheduled to visit Rwanda in June to kick off the building of a Gorilla research centre.
The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, was a gift given to the TV host by her long-term partner, Portia De Rossi.
The centre will be the permanent home in Rwanda for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The organisation has been extensively working to protect the endangered mountain gorillas for the past 50 years.
During The Ellen DeGeneres Show, published Friday, the TV host said that she was looking forward to embarking on the project.
“I am trying to build this campus in Rwanda to join the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. I can’t wait. We are leaving in June and we are going to visit the site where we are going to build the campus and we are going see the gorillas. Just seeing them is going to make me very happy,” DeGeneres said.
During Friday’s show, DeGeneres invited actress Sigourney Weaver, the actor of the award-winning movie Gorillas in the Mist.
In the movie, Weaver played iconic conservationist Dian Fossey. She shared tips with DeGeneres who will visit the Gorillas during her stay in Rwanda.
DeGeneres, who has been honoured for her work with animal conservation, said that she was in awe of conservationist Dian Fossey since she first saw her on the cover of the National Geographic.
“I have been in love with animals since I was a little girl and especially the gorillas and all the animals in Africa that need protection but specifically, Dian Fossey for some reason touched me and I remember reading about her in the National Geographic,” she said.
Fossey was first on the cover of the National Geographic in January 1970.
On her part, an emotional Weaver told DeGeneres that the foundation would make a significant difference not only to Rwanda but Africa as a whole.
“This gift that Ellen is giving to Diana Fossey Foundation, to Africa, to Rwanda and the gorillas is going to be such a game changer. The brilliance and generosity of the gift absolutely overwhelms me,” Weaver said.
“Being with gorillas is the most exciting, transcending experience I have ever had. I have always loved animals but this is completely different. You are with your cousins; you are sort of with your family only that they are that much more wonderful. They don’t make war, they make love, eat, play, they are just wonderful.”
Weaver won Best Actress in a drama for her work in the Gorillas in the Mist in 1988.
Mirka Eikelschulte, a Dutch tourism enthusiast who has visited and made Rwanda her home told The New Times in an interview yesterday that this is a big opportunity that would give the Dian Fossey Foundation the attention that it deserves.
“I am very happy to hear this. Dian Fossey needs a more comprehensive approach in Rwanda. The activities around her are today too fragmented. There is a grave, there is a research centre and there is a hotel where she stayed. Those developing tourist packages should consider building some sort of theme day around all of this.
Dian Fossey needs a storytelling approach so that tourists can follow her footsteps during the journey she took,” Eikelschulte said.
DeGeneres has won 30 Emmy’s, 20 People’s Choice Awards among other awards for her work and charitable efforts. In 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.