The construction of the multimillion-dollar facility that sits on a 12-acre (about 4.9 hectares) land was funded by the celebrated American television host Ellen DeGeneres and her spouse Portia de Rossi.
« Today is such an important milestone in conservation of our mountain gorillas, which remains at the heart of our priorities, » said Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente at the inauguration event in Kinigi, Musanze district. « Conservation requires partnerships, we are pleased to embark on the expansion project of the Volcanoes National Park and this will benefit the entire ecotourism industry. Let the world come here and be inspired. »
Speaking at the event, Clare Akamanzi, chief executive officer of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said that the campus is a perfect example of sharing knowledge and support for ecotourism policy.
« We commit to see this campus prosper. You took Rwanda to the world and now this campus is bringing the world to Rwanda, » she told DeGeneres.
According to Akamanzi, the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is expected to boost mountain gorilla conservation efforts and promote Rwanda’s tourism sector.
« I have looked up to Dian Fossey since I was 12 years old, and this past week in Rwanda, I was able to tour the Ellen DeGeneres Campus. It has been so emotional and so incredible to see the impact it has already had, » said DeGeneres at the event. « I can’t say enough about Rwanda, there is so much to do and I will keep talking about Rwanda. I’ve always dreamt of being here. Dian Fossey taught us that we should look at different things differently rather than fighting them. She’s been my hero. »
DeGeneres said that the campus was named the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to recognize the legacy of the late Dian Fossey in service of mountain gorillas.
« We want to produce the next generation of conservationists here in Rwanda. This campus also contributes to Rwanda ecosystem development, » said Tara Stoinski, president of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
She said that the campus will focus on creating a space to engage the many stakeholders in conservation —students, scientists, tourists, conservation partners, and community members — to advance a collective goal of saving gorillas and, more broadly, the planet.
The campus is located next to Volcanoes National Park with a building space that occupies more than 50,000 square feet (about 0.47 hectares). It has a scientific conservation library, a laboratory, a meeting space for large groups, an interactive exhibit that focuses on Dian Fossey’s story and the conservation of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
The campus also has indoor and outdoor classrooms with a range of experiences for everyone from young children to scientists to tourists, and a laboratory housing 250,000 native plants.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is the world’s largest and longest-running organization dedicated entirely to gorilla conservation and was founded by the legendary Dian Fossey, whose life and ultimately death was portrayed in the movie « Gorillas in the Mist. »
For 55 years, the Fossey Fund has been working to help conserve wild gorilla populations and support the people who share gorillas’ forest home.
There are more than 1,000 mountain gorillas living in the world, more than half of which live in the Virunga Mountains, and the remainder can be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF). .
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