You may know Ellen Degeneres for her career as a comedian, television host, and actress, but perhaps you weren’t aware of her passion for wildlife and her childhood hero, Dian Fossey. Dian Fossey was an American conservationist best known for her extensive studies of mountain gorillas. Her work inspired Ellen Degeneres so much so that the Ellen Fund was established to support the continued global conservation efforts for endangered species. The Ellen Fund has now partnered with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, allowing Ellen Degeneres’ childhood dreams to become a reality.
Gorillas in Rwanda
Loss of habitat, climate change, lack of food, disease, and pollution are all too common reasons which threaten the lives of wildlife and plants across the globe. For Rwandan gorillas, however, their biggest threat and killer is in fact human predation. Mountain gorillas are poached for many reasons such as being hunted for bushmeat, use within medicinal herbs, and to trade within the black market as pets. There are currently less than 1,000 mountain gorillas left in the world.
Gorillas are an incredible species. They are the largest living primates and are also the closest mammals to humans, sharing 98% of our DNA. They are very intelligent animals that use 20 different sounds to communicate; they are compassionate and have been shown to have the ability to learn sign language as well as the meaning of many words.
The Ellen Degeneres Campus
In 2018, Portia de Rossi, Ellen’s wife, surprised her with an incredible birthday gift which was also the opportunity of a lifetime. The opportunity was to provide a permanent home for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, a fund that is currently the world’s leader when it comes to protecting and studying gorillas. Dian Fossey began her work in 1963 and to this day, the most scientific data about gorillas comes from the Fossey Fund’s team of dedicated scientists. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has been conducting groundbreaking research and conservation efforts over the last 40 years when the fund was first set up in Dian Fossey’s memory after her sudden death in 1985. The organization works by engaging local communities and monitoring gorilla groups for changes in health, birth, death, and emigration, and actively defending the gorillas from poachers. However, the Fossey fund has always been missing one key component: a permanent home.
Partnering with The Ellen Fund, the huge team of dedicated staff and volunteers are working towards creating a campus 30 km from the critically important Volcanoes National Park. This sustainably-built campus will support science and research, responsible tourism, and education. The campus is due to be completed this year, when visitors will be welcomed with the hopes they will leave feeling inspired by gorilla conservation, not just in Rwanda, but internationally.
If you would like to support Ellen Degeneres on her mission, you can find ways to get involved here.
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Photo: Ellen Degeneres via Facebook; Samedi Jean Pierre Mucyo / Dian Fossey Fund via Facebook; Dian Fossey Fund via Facebook