Ellen DeGeneres' Gorilla Conservation Campus Is Officially Open in Rwanda: 'The Honor of a Lifetime'

"To know I'm doing my part to protect endangered gorillas and continue Dian's legacy, is simply amazing," Ellen DeGeneres says of her and Portia de Rossi's work with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Ellen DeGeneres needs your help.

Four years after Portia de Rossi surprised her wife with the Ellen DeGeneres Fund on her 60th birthday episode of Ellen, DeGeneres' campus is now officially open for visitors.

Starting Tuesday, tourists and activists alike will be able to join the next generation of wildlife conservationists at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda.

"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," DeGeneres, 64, said in a press release.

Ellen DeGeneres Portia De Rossi
Courtesy of The Ellen Fund

The late Fossey — who was famously portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in 1988's Gorillas in the Mist — established the fund in 1967 in an effort to save endangered mountain gorillas from poaching and habitat destruction in Africa.

While Fossey originally feared the animals would go extinct by the year 2000, gorillas in the region have grown from a group "of 250 in the 1980s to more than 600 today" thanks to her team's conservation efforts.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Courtesy of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

"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," said Dr. Tara Stoinski, Fossey Fund president and chief scientific officer.

DeGeneres' campus is just the latest addition to the fund, which remains the world's largest and longest-running organization dedicated entirely to gorilla conservation.

"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," said Felix Ndagijimana, Fossey Fund director of Rwanda programs.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Courtesy of MASS Design Group

Located adjacent to Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, MASS Design Group helped craft the multi-acre, eco-friendly facility. Together, they've also planted 250,000 native plants, installed green roofs, and engineered equipment specially designed to tackle water harvesting and waste water treatment via wetlands.

"The Ellen Campus demonstrates how new infrastructure can be a boon for conservation and species protection. With prioritization of local labor for construction, furniture created by Rwandan artisans, and environmental stewardship, the campus will inspire a generation of conservation activists in Rwanda. It also signals to global conservationists new ways to bind ecosystems and communities to one another," said Michael Murphy, MASS Design Group founder and executive director.

Portia de rossi Dr Tara Stoinski Ellen degeneres
Courtesy of The Ellen Fund

But DeGeneres isn't alone in supporting the fund. Donors such as Leonardo DiCaprio have also helped finish the project, resulting in a 360-degree theater named after his mother Irmelin DiCaprio and a computer lab in honor of his father George DiCaprio.

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"I just want people to care," de Rossi, 49, previously told PEOPLE about building the campus. "I guess that is all we want, for people to care, and realize what it means for humanity to have these magnificent creatures alive and well."

The Ellen Campus is now officially open to the public starting Feb. 1, with private tours available.

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