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Ellen DeGeneres Opens Campus in Rwanda With Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

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Ellen DeGeneres officially has a new footprint in Rwanda.

Today marks the opening of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, located outside Volcanoes National Park. The multi-acre, eco-friendly spread is designed to provide the Fossey Fund with a space that helps amplify its mission of protecting and studying gorillas, training the next generation of conservationists and building the conservation capacity of local communities. It represents the vision of MASS Design Group and includes three main buildings — Sandy and Harold Price Research Center, Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery and Rob and Melani Walton Education Center — and housing for visiting students and researchers.

It is open to the public as the Ellen Campus is designed to support Rwanda’s ecotourism sector. Tourism to see gorillas is said to play a “critical role” in providing funds for the park and supporting local communities through jobs and revenue sharing. Visitors can experience an interactive exhibit located in the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery that tells the story of mountain gorilla research and conservation from Fossey’s time to modern times. It features exclusive artifacts from Fossey’s 18 years of living with gorillas as well as augmented and virtual reality experiences.

“Dian Fossey has always been a hero of mine, and so it’s been the honor of my lifetime to support this project,” DeGeneres said. “To see my name alongside hers on the walls of this beautiful campus, and to know I’m doing my part to protect endangered gorillas and continue Dian’s legacy, is simply amazing.”

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A rendering of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Courtesy of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

An extensive “living laboratory” has been created on the former agricultural site through the planting of more than 250,000 native plants and the inclusion of green roofs, water harvesting and a constructed wetland for wastewater treatment. Support from numerous donors contributed to the project, including Leonardo DiCaprio, who named a theater for his mother, Irmelin, and a computer lab for his father, George.

“The Ellen Campus demonstrates how new infrastructure can be a boon for conservation and species protection,” said Michael Murphy, founder and executive director of MASS Design Group. “With prioritization of local labor for construction, furniture created by Rwandan artisans and environmental stewardship, the campus will inspire a generation of conservation activists in Rwanda. It also signals to global conservationists new ways to bind ecosystems and communities to one another.”

Other campus partners include Azizi Life, Bob Campbell Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Falcon’s Creative Group, Food and Stuff, Formula D, Habitat XR, Internet of Elephants and National Geographic Society.

News of the campus unveiling comes at the four-year anniversary of the creation of the Ellen Fund, a nonprofit founded by Portia de Rossi as a gift for DeGeneres. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund was the org’s first recipient. Though it largely supports the protection of endangered animals, per the company’s mission statement, “We also support people, uplifting women and conservationists of color, and inspiring hope that anyone can make a difference.” Some of that work was featured in DeGeneres’ documentary Endangered and subsequent campaign that raised $1 million to support seven species and their communities.

“From the outset, the mission of this project has focused on creating a space to engage the many stakeholders in conservation — students, scientists, tourists, conservation partners, community members — to advance our collective goal of saving gorillas and more broadly, the planet,” says Dr. Tara Stoinski, the Fossey Fund’s president and chief scientific officer. “It is our hope that people who visit the Ellen DeGeneres Campus will leave inspired to make a difference, just as Dian Fossey did.“

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The Ellen DeGeneres Campus entrance

Courtesy of MASS Design Group

source : https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lifestyle/lifestyle-news/ellen-degeneres-gorillas-dian-fossey-campus-rwanda-1235084704/

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