CONSERVATION campaigners working tirelessly to save Rwanda’s mountain gorillas are to have a brand new base in the New Year – and it is expected to become a big tourist attraction.
In the year that legendary conservationist Dian Fossey would have celebrated her 90th birthday, her charity will get a new home.
The Ellen DeGeneres Campus is due to open its doors near Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in early 2022.
The campus nestles in the forest. Picture: MASS Design Group
It will become the headquarters of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund which for more than 50 years has been working to conserve gorilla populations and support the people who share their forest home.
It was back in 2017 that the organisation embarked on an ambitious project to build a permanent home from which to further step up its vitally important work.
Initiated through a lead gift from US TV host Ellen DeGeneres and her actress wife, Portia de Rossi, the Ellen Campus is the vision of the award-winning MASS Design Group and is one of Africa’s most anticipated openings.
Ellen DeGeneres visits gorillas at the site. Picture: The Ellen Fund
Nestled in a reforested landscape containing more than 250,000 native plants, the facility will contain state-of-the art research labs, an education centre and a public museum.
The focus will be on educating and engaging the many stakeholders in modern conservation – students, local communities, conservation partners and tourists.
Visitors can see artifacts belonging to Dian Fossey herself, get up close and personal with gorillas in a 360-degree theatre and through virtual reality, and enjoy coffee and a snack at the café.
Baby gorilla in the forest. Picture: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
There’ll be the opportunity to purchase locally-made handicrafts and walk a series of trails aimed at educating visitors about the incredible biodiversity of the region.
Conservationist Dian studied Mountain Gorilla groups from 1966 until her tragic murder in 1985. Her work was portrayed in hit movie Gorillas In The Mist, where she was played by Sigourney Weaver.
Dian at work with gorillas. Picture: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
The news comes as vaccinated UK visitors to Rwanda have been told they will not be required to quarantine on their return after the UK government announced the removal of the East African destination from its ‘red list’.
A tourism spokesman said: “Rwanda is excited to welcome back UK travellers in the coming weeks to experience its breathtaking national parks and extraordinary native wildlife including its growing lion population and protected Mountain Gorillas.”