Our Ellen Campus may not have opened yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start teaching people about conservation!
When our construction workers first arrived on Campus to begin working, we conducted a survey to find out how much they knew about the importance of our conservation work. Our plan is to teach several conservation classes to this important audience while they are at work on our site, and then follow up with an end-of-project survey to determine how much they learned in their time on our Campus.
On World Gorilla Day in September, we taught our inaugural class to 217 Rwandan construction workers. The theme of the lesson, led by Jean Pierre “Samedi” Mucyo, our gorilla protection and monitoring officer, and Maurice Ngiramahoro, our conservation education officer, was “gorilla ecology and conservation.” Jean Pierre and Maurice detailed the current gorilla conservation efforts that are underway in Volcanoes National Park (VNP) and explained the critical threats facing the nearby gorilla population. They also outlined the Fossey Fund’s role in this important work.
We plan to offer more such courses as construction continues. When the Campus is complete, we will once again survey the workers to see if their attitudes toward and knowledge about conservation have changed during their time with us.
“Our hope is to create ‘gorilla ambassadors’ through these classes,” explains Mucyo. “The workers who attend the lectures can take their newfound knowledge back to their families and communities, spreading our important message further.”
Upcoming talks are being planned on topics including biodiversity in the VNP and threats to park habitat.
About the Campus:
The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund will be the permanent headquarters of the Fossey Fund’s activities. Its mission is to inspire and educate the next generation of conservationists in Africa and beyond. They will be trained to tackle the conservation challenges of the future and to ensure the survival of gorillas and their biodiverse forest home. The multi-acre, eco-friendly facility adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park will include laboratories, a computer lab and library, flexible office and meeting space, classrooms, an interactive educational exhibit and on-site residences for visiting students and scientists. Built with locally-sourced materials and supplies, the campus will embody the Fossey Fund’s mission to conserve and limit its impact on the environment, through rainwater harvesting, green roofs, the planting of over 250,000 native plant species and a constructed wetland to treat wastewater and promote biodiversity.