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A Future for Gorillas

The Ellen DeGeneres Campus
of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

The Future of Conservation is Here

"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. It is our hope that people who visit the Ellen DeGeneres Campus will leave inspired to make a difference, just as Dian Fossey did."

Dr. Tara Stoinski, president and chief scientific officer, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund - Developer

Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery
Pictured above (from foreground to background): Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery, Rob and Melani Walton Education Center and Sandy and Harold Price Research Center.

The Future of Conservation is Here

For 55 years, the Fossey Fund has been working to help conserve wild gorilla populations and support the people who share gorillas’ forest home. It all started with two tents that Dian Fossey erected in the forest in 1967. From there, we grew over the years, from one person to a staff of more than 300.  Until recently, we worked out of a rented space with only a single classroom and a kitchen converted into a laboratory, far from the gorilla habitat and surrounding communities.  We needed a home that could support a growing team and workload. In 2018, as we celebrated our 50th anniversary, our leaders made a strategic decision to move forward on an ambitious, 20-year dream to create a purpose-built facility in Rwanda aimed at accelerating science and conservation work.

Within months of this decision, we received a lead gift from global icon Ellen DeGeneres and her wife, Portia de Rossi. Since that time, thousands of donors, large and small, have supported the project and helped to create a state-of-the-art research and learning facility – the Fossey Funds’s first permanent home in Rwanda. The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund opened its doors in February 2022.

The Ellen Campus

The multi-acre, eco-friendly facility adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park includes three main buildings—the Sandy and Harold Price Research Center, the Rob and Melani Walton Education Center, and the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery—as well as housing for visiting students and researchers. The Ellen Campus will serve as a gateway to conservation for the many stakeholders with whom we work, helping to create the next generation of conservationists.

Science is at the core of what we do at the Fossey Fund. The Sandy and Harold Price Research Center is a state-of-the-art facility aimed at advancing our research in areas like genetics, physiology and paleontology. The five-fold increase in lab space will provide new opportunities to work with scientific collaborators and students and provide more training opportunities to young African conservationists.

"The Ellen Campus represents a huge expansion of our teaching and laboratory spaces, enabling us to not just increase but transform our programs to study gorillas and their critical forest habitat and bring educational opportunities to early career African scientists and members of the local community."

Felix Ndagijimana, director of Rwanda programs, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund- Developer

Central to our mission is education. Expanded classroom space, combined with a science library and computer lab, will enhance teaching opportunities with local and international universities and enable us to host conferences, seminars and trainings.  But the educational opportunities extend beyond the classroom—indeed, the whole Ellen Campus will serve as an educational tool.  For example, the campus is literally a living laboratory—the more than 250,000 native plants that make up the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Interpretive Trails will provide a rich experience for field trips. In addition, the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery contains an immersive public exhibit designed to tell the story of mountain gorilla research and conservation from Dian’s time to modern day. It includes original, never before seen artifacts from Dian Fossey’s almost two decades living with the gorillas, stunning visual experiences, including virtual and augmented reality and a 360-degree immersive theater, and numerous engaging edutainment opportunities to learn more about the science and the people behind the conservation success of mountain gorillas.

Campus Construction

The Ellen Campus is the vision of the award-winning MASS Design Group and has been named one of Africa’s 10 most anticipated architectural projects and featured on 60 Minutes and in Architectural Digest.

Built with locally sourced materials and supplies, the facility embodies the Fossey Fund’s mission to conserve and limit its impact on the environment through rainwater harvesting, green roofs, the reforestation of former agricultural land and a constructed wetland to treat wastewater and promote biodiversity. The project represented an investment of $15 million in the Rwandan economy and provided 2,400 construction jobs for local community members.

Dian Fossey has always been a hero of mine, and so it’s been the honor of a lifetime to support this project. 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.

Ellen DeGeneres- Developer

Visit Us

In addition to its role as a hub for scientific discovery, the Ellen Campus is also designed to support Rwanda’s ecotourism sector. Managed by the Rwandan government, tourism to see the gorillas plays a critical role in providing revenue for both the park and nearby communities through employment and revenue sharing. We are excited to add to the tourism experience by offering the opportunity to stop in for a tour, grab a cup of coffee at our Gorilla Café, peruse the gift shop and, most importantly, have a wonderful time while learning more about gorillas and our important work to help conserve them.

Contact us for more information about touring the Campus.

Watch CBS News’ Lesley Stahl and our CEO, Dr. Tara Stoinski, use our “gorilla chat” game from our exhibit.

Temperatures at the campus can be chilly so visitors are encouraged to dress warmly.

The campus is open seven days a week, from 9AM-5PM with the last entry at 4PM. We are closed on April 7th in recognition of Genocide Remembrance Day. 

Photo Gallery

Thank you to the donors who made this dream a reality.

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi

The Ellen Fund

Anonymous

Diane and Hal Brierley

Cindy Broder

Sandy and Harold Price

Sullivan Family Foundation

The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation

Chris, Margaret, Alyse, Kira, and Tess Bierly

The Abendshein Family

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Sharon and Par Chadha and Exela Technologies 

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Corning® Gorilla® Glass

Dallas Zoo

George DiCaprio

Irmelin DiCaprio

Nick and Cheri Faust

The Dillon Fund

Endangered Species Chocolate, LLC

Waldo Fernandez

Judith Harris and Robert Singer, M.D.

Sean P. Hayes

Richard Horder

Robert Littman and Sully Bonnelly

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Philip V. And Kim M. Petersen

Rebecca Finch Rooney

Sigourney Weaver

TTMMC Fund

Brown LaBonge Family

Sophie Bryan

Disney Conservation

Rita Grolitzer

Frank and Trish Hampton

Sharon Haugh and Alexis Stein Fund

Houston Zoo

Susan Nash McClellan

Nashville Zoo

Dr. Tara S.Stoinski

Volcanoes Safari

Julie Vehrenkamp Berryhill

Stephanie Boyé

Jodi Carrigan

Dion F. Coakley

Michael and Eileen Crowther

Melanie L. Devore

Sue Chin and Lee Ehmke

Bill and Julie Evans

Nathan and Randi Foster

Charles R. Franz

Doug and Kay Ivester

In Memory of Barney Katzman

Risë L. Moody

Steven and Lisa Pite

Clare Richardson

Michael Ross

Sandra and Steven Seidenfeld

Dave Singer

Matt and Rachel Singerman

Thoiry Zoo Safari

Gail and Robert Boyd Tober, M.D.

Josef and Dana Volman

Brandee Wagner and Eric Bischoff

Burchell and Esten Walker

Sage and Doug Wicinski

In Memory of Kent Williams

Cathy Willis and Elliott and Charlie Zorn

William E. Wockner Foundation

Michael Zeldes

In Kind Gifts provided by:

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium 

Dallas Zoo

Derbigum

Duncan Fabrics

National Geographic Society

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Spring Green Communications

Schüco International

Gorilla Champions

Just like the Gorilla Groups we protect every day – our Gorilla Champions represent an important collection of generous donors that have come together to help make our new home possible. Their support is represented on our Gorilla Champions wall which will be on display at our Ellen Campus.

For information on our Ellen Campus dedication please see our press kit or Melissa Mathews.

Collaborating Partners