Inside Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Story, Entrance Fee, Reviews

Inside The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Story, Entrance Fee, Reviews. The Ellen DeGeneres Campus was established to provide long-term housing for The Dian Fossey Fund, whose mission is to ensure the survival of wild mountain gorillas. The Fossey Fund’s Ellen Campus officially opened its doors on February 1, 2022.

At the ground-breaking event on February 12, 2019, Portia de Rossi said it best:

Many years ago, my wife Ellen related to me the time she found a copy of National Geographic featuring Dian Fossey on the cover while she was a little girl living in New Orleans, Louisiana. Seeing that courageous American woman, a scientist, pitch a tent in the Rwandan jungle to save a species on the verge of extinction was a life-changing experience for Ellen. It altered her perspective on the world and her place in it. Ellen was inspired to follow in Dian’s footsteps after hearing about the groundbreaking work of the dedicated scientist she admired.

The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

About The Ellen Degeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund


The Fossey Fund’s primary goal is to support research. The Fossey Fund’s investigations into topics like gorilla physiology, genetics, and paleontology are supported by the state-of-the-art Sandy and Harold Price Research Center. The Fossey Fund will be able to expand its partnerships with academic institutions and students by utilizing the Research Center’s five times more spacious laboratories. The Fossey Fund’s Research Center will play a crucial role in preparing the next generation of African conservationists for their work.


The Fossey Fund focuses heavily on educational opportunities for local youth, college students, and the general public. Classrooms, a science library, and a computer lab can all be found at the Rob and Melani Walton Education Center. The Fossey Fund will be able to hold more conferences, seminars, and trainings, as well as increase its collaboration with local and foreign colleges, thanks to these new facilities. The site is a living laboratory, with over 250,000 native plants complementing the built environment.


Visitors to the Fossey Fund’s Ellen Campus will be able to experience an interactive public display at the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery that traces the history of mountain gorilla research and conservation from Dian Fossey’s time to the present day. Dian Fossey spent over two decades living with the gorillas, and the Conservation Gallery features never-before-seen relics from that time, as well as an intriguing visual experience featuring virtual and augmented reality and a 360-degree immersive theater. The Ellen Campus is furnished with a cafe, gift shop, and relaxing seating areas perfect for taking in the abundant plant and animal life.

The Fossey Fund’s Ellen Campus had an effect long before it opened its doors. The campus was designed and constructed by MASS Design Group and MASS Build, two companies who have won numerous awards for their work. Among the effects are:

  • 2,400 workers employed
  • 99% of workers were Rwandan and over 20% were female
  • over $15 million invested in Rwanda and its people
  • 250,000+ native plants propagated
  • Over 20,000 visitors in the first year

The Story of Dian Fossey Fund’s Ellen Campus

Official Inauguration Ceremony of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus

Throughout her career, Ellen DeGeneres has utilized her platform to advocate for the underrepresented.

Her childhood hero was, in reality, famed gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey.

As a result, Portia established The Ellen Fund as a gift to Ellen in 2018, with the intended goal of aiding Dian in her efforts to conserve the gorgeous mountain gorillas through The Fossey Fund.

After more than five fruitful decades helping the gorillas, The Fossey Fund has never abandoned them, not even during the genocide or the pandemic. However, they have never had a place of their own.

The Fossey Fund’s permanent home, a campus dedicated to gorilla conservation, was developed with widespread and early backing from The Ellen Fund.

The environmentally friendly and technologically innovative campus is currently welcoming guests under the official name The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

It’s huge, covering 12 acres next to Volcano National Park in northern Rwanda and housing over 45,000 square feet of facilities like cutting-edge labs, a scientific conservation library, student dorms, a conference hall, and interactive exhibits meant to inspire a lifetime of gorilla conservation.

Almost a quarter of a million trees were planted in the area. The construction industry broke barriers by hiring a disproportionately large number of women (over 2,400) and also by creating new jobs during the difficult times of Covid.

The site tripled the amount of available laboratory space for Fossey Fund and doubled the number of available classrooms.

The effects of the campus reach beyond gorillas. It supports African-led conservation science, responsible tourism, the environment, the longterm health of the Fossey Fund, and the needs of the surrounding community.

The campus impact at the end of 2022 includes:

  • Over $15 million invested in Rwanda
  • 2,400 construction jobs created
  • More than 500 people earned certifications from local university for trade skills learned through their employment
  • Over 20% of all employees were women, including leadership roles held by women
  • 250,000 native plants propagated, noticeably returning biodiversity to the formerly-agricultural land within months
  • The Campus hosted over 15,000 visitors in the first 6 months, including more than 2,000 local school children
  • The Campus partnership with Azizi Life (gift shop) resulted in the expansion of Azizi Life programs in northern Rwanda, as well as support for women’s cooperatives throughout the country
  • The Campus partnership with Food & Stuff (café) not only delivers fresh & healthy meals to the Campus staff (sponsored by Fossey Fund) and visitors, but also resulted in an expansion of their operations
  • The Campus boasts a superpanoramic 360° theater to bring visitors closer (digitally) to the mountain gorillas, though the partnership with HabitatXR. They also pioneered virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences to enhance Campus visits.

From the Campus architecture, purpose-built gardens, and the visitor and staff experience, it’s intended to be an example of responsible conservation that trains the next generation of leaders.

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