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Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund breaks ground on a new campus for gorilla conservation in partnership with the Ellen Fund 

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund News
For release Feb. 12, 2019
Media contacts: 
Rwanda: Veronica Vecellio, vvecellio@gorillafund.org
U.S. Erika Archibald, Ph.D. earchibald@gorillafund.org
Link to photos: https://dfgfi.org/2E6Ec0W

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund breaks ground on a new campus for gorilla conservation in partnership with the Ellen Fund 

Musanze, Rwanda
On Feb. 12, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund celebrated a groundbreaking for the organization’s new permanent home, located in Kinigi sector, Musanze district, Rwanda. Construction on the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, named in honor of a lead gift by American celebrities and conservationists Ellen DeGeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi, is expected to start this summer, with completion planned for early 2021.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has a 50-plus year history in Rwanda, starting with the founding of the Karisoke Research Center by Dr. Dian Fossey in 1967.  Now, with 130 employees in Rwanda, the Fossey Fund is the world’s largest and longest-running organization focused entirely on gorilla conservation.  In addition to daily gorilla protection and research, the Fossey Fund also reaches more than 14,000 Rwandans each year through education, training, and other community-based programs.

Portia de Rossi attended the event on behalf of herself and Ellen DeGeneres.  Also in attendance were some 200 guests, including national and local officials from the Rwandan government, Fossey Fund staff and board members, community leaders, local organizations and other partners.

“I am so proud that as our team and programs at Karisoke continue to grow and succeed, that we are finally able to build a permanent home for our important gorilla conservation work,” said Felix Ndagijimana, who heads the Fossey Fund’s programs in Rwanda, after first joining as a research assistant in 2004. “It is a dream come true for us!”

“The new campus truly takes our long and successful legacy in Rwanda into a very exciting future,” said Fossey Fund President and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Tara Stoinski. “We are especially grateful to the Rwandan government and all the partners who have worked to protect the gorillas and this important forest in Volcanoes National Park and thus helped make this new facility a reality.”

“The Ellen Fund is so honored to support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in their dream of finding a permanent home in Rwanda. The new campus will help the gorillas and the surrounding community,” said Portia de Rossi, Director of The Ellen Fund. “Dian Fossey was Ellen’s hero growing up, and I love the idea of these two powerful women working towards the same goal – the protection of one of our closest relatives, the mountain gorillas.”

“Good conservation puts people first,” said Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi, governor of the northern province of Rwanda, as the first shovels entered the ground. “We pledge our full support to the Fossey Fund and this important project.”

About the new campus

Currently, the Fossey Fund operates its programs from a rented office building in Musanze, which does not have adequate and appropriate space for all its activities and is located about 30 kilometers from Volcanoes National Park, where the organization’s work takes place.

The new ecologically friendly campus will be adjacent to the park and include state-of-the art laboratories; a computer lab and library; flexible office and meeting space; classrooms for educational programming; a dynamic public exhibit to showcase the legacy of Dian Fossey; and guest housing to host visiting researchers and students.

This campus demonstrates the Fossey Fund’s continued investment in advancing the conservation and science goals of Rwanda and will expand the organization’s ability to be a key node in the Rwandan government’s Center of Excellence in Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resource Management. It will also have an impact much beyond that, through a significant investment in the local communities around Volcanoes National Park. It is estimated that as part of the construction 1,500 jobs will be created (with 35% of the workforce being female) and $2 million will be spent on local labor and trades.  In addition, it is estimated that $2.5 million will be spent on local materials gathered from within 250 kilometers of the site.

For construction of the new campus, the Fossey Fund has partnered with MASS Design Group, a unique, award-winning nonprofit firm based in Boston, Ma., and Kigali, Rwanda. MASS has extensive experience in creating mission-aligned, purpose-built facilities throughout the world, including hospitals, schools, and public monuments. Through its many projects in Rwanda, MASS has helped develop a team of experienced local architects, designers, engineers and construction personnel. They focus on locally sourced, sustainable materials and providing job and training opportunities for local communities.


About the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is the world’s longest-running and largest organization dedicated entirely to gorilla conservation. Founded by Dr. Dian Fossey in 1967, the organization protects and studies endangered gorillas in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Fossey Fund’s proven conservation model also includes training the next generation of African conservationists and helping local communities to create long-term, sustainable conservation solutions. For more: gorillafund.org