Anyone who knows Ellen DeGeneres knows how kind and sweet she is and giving back is second nature to her. Well, now it’s her turn to be given something.
The Best Surprise Ever
For her 60th birthday, in January of 2018, her incredible wife Portia de Rossi surprised her live on her show, with the best gift Ellen has ever been given.
When Portia sat next to Ellen on her stage and explained what she was about to give her and why, she explained how for many years, ever since they met, Ellen has expressed great appreciation and gratitude for wildlife. She grew up reading National Geographic, and one particular series stood out to her.
A Deep Admiration
Ellen vividly remembers the cover of a National Geographic magazine that basically began her deep admiration for Dian Fossey, the late scientist and conservationist that worked with gorillas in Africa. She spent most of her life studying mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
Ellen always admired Dian Fossey and wanted to meet her one day. But sadly, she was murdered in 1985. Although Ellen will never get to meet her, her gift will allow Dian Fossey’s memory to live on as well as all her good work.
Ellen would never be able to guess what he wife was about to give her.
Portia also explained how, believe it or not, Ellen constantly feels like she isn’t doing enough. One way in which she wants to give back is by helping rescue wildlife around the world.
Portia said on the show, “It’s your 60th birthday and this gift had to be really special and it had to represent who you are and what you really care about.”
“Not just now, but what you’ve always cared about. What you were influenced by and what has made you the amazing person that you are today.” She then played a video for both Ellen and the audience to see for the first time. And it was clear that Ellen was in fact surprised, judging by her tears.
The video introduced everyone to conservationist Dian Fossey and initiative she began but sadly was never able to finish. Dian wrote “Gorillas in the Mist” and she was one of Ellen’s heroes.
Ellen was about to be moved to tears.
Carrying on a Legacy
Portia then announced what Ellen’s gift was. She said, “Ellen, you will carry on Dian’s legacy by giving them a permanent home in Rwanda.”
“Now, you will join Dian as a protector and champion of these amazing animals, the mountain gorillas. Happy birthday!”
Moved to Tears
Ellen was moved to tears, as she watched the video explaining that she will now be continuing the work Dian Fossey started with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund at the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda.
Protia says in the video that although Ellen never got to meet and interview Fossey like she always wanted to, she can now carry on her legacy.
Protia then revealed the grand prize.
A Wildlife Fund
Portia said, “So for your birthday, Ellen, I am bringing you and your hero Dian together by building the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.”
Portia also revealed that she started The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund, which Ellen can use to protect and advocate for the world’s most vulnerable animals and wildlife.
The Fund’s First Initiative
The center will be a place for tourism, education, and further research and is the fund’s first initiative is to include the building of a permanent and safe home for the The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Dian Fossey built the original research center in 1967 in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains.
The center was created to protect as well as study the endangered mountain gorillas. Unfortunately, today there are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the world.
Ellen would then tell the audience why it’s the perfect gift for her.
Amazingly, Fossey’s legacy has continued to live on through the research and protection efforts, providing communities with the tools to build their own conservations.
Now, with Ellen’s gift, there will be a permanent home in Rwanda for the organization that has been protecting mountain gorillas for 50 years.
She Understands Her
Porita’s gift was just perfect for Ellen. And we’re sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the studio. As both Ellen and Portia were wiping away their tears, Ellen mentioned why it’s the perfect gift.
She said to the audience, “When we got married, Portia’s line was ‘It’s good to be loved, it’s profound to be understood,’ and she understands me.” She said it was so clear how much Portia understands her because this is the best gift she could ever be given.
And do you know how long the couple has been married for?
A Fairytale Wedding
The couple have beena beautiful fairytale wedding and have been happily married ever since.
Later, Ellen said in a statement that she is “beyond excited” about the opportunity to work with the group. She said Portia “knew the exact right gift to give me.”
Woman of the Year
Ellen has actually been an animal-rights activist for many years.in 2009, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals named her “woman of the year” in 2009.
A few months later, in the summer of 2018, Ellen and Portia went on a journey to Rwanda to start the initiative and begin the plan and design of the center.
Ellen was about to start a whole new journey of a lifetime.
Creating a Space
With over 50,000 square feet of building space, Ellen will be creating an atmosphere and environment to conserve, inspire and educate.
Before the trip to Rwanda, Ellen spoke of her excitement: “I am trying to build this campus in Rwanda to join the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. I can’t wait.”
Going to See the Gorillas
“We are leaving in June and we are going to visit the site where we are going to build the campus and we are going see the gorillas. Just seeing them is going to make me very happy,” she said.
“I have been in love with animals since I was a little girl and especially the gorillas and all the animals in Africa that need protection but specifically, Dian Fossey for some reason touched me and I remember reading about her in the National Geographic.” Dian Fossey was first on the cover of the National Geographic in January 1970.
One of Her Biggest Dreams
In May 2018, Ellen lived out one of her biggest dreams. She went to Rwanda with her wife for the first time to see the mountain gorillas. They traveled with guides from the Volcanoes National Park and hiked 3 miles up the extinct Mount Sabyinyo Volcano.
They hiked until they found a group of Agaysha gorillas. Ellen said her experience was truly life changing.
Changed Her Life
“Spending time with these gorillas changed my life. Thank you to everyone who is helping Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund,” Ellen wrote on a Twitter post.
During their trip in Rwanda, Ellen and Portia got to meet with President Kagame and visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Ellen would then say what she’s so grateful for.
Ellen posted a video after her trek, saying “I can’t begin to describe what this experience was like, or how much it means to me. I’m so grateful.”
The one minute video had over half a million views by the next morning. She shared clips from her trip, showing how she fed a giraffe at breakfast, and met with the endangered mountain gorillas.
A Cute Giraffe
Ellen joked about her giraffe experience, ‘‘the giraffe was cute, but it ate so much, the bill for breakfast was $400.’‘
The place, called Giraffe Manor, provides guests with snacks to feed giraffes from the breakfast or dining table. Talk about an interesting experience!
Ellen never stops being funny. See what see says about being with the gorillas.
In Rwanda, Ellen and her entourage were lucky enough to encounter the gorillas not once but twice. And she posted again on Twitter about her experience.
‘‘The gorilla bumps my sister-in-law as it goes past her. I was scared but I was jealous, because I want to be bumped by a gorilla,” said Ellen.
The State of the Gorillas
The sad truth is that mountain gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered species. They survive on the volcanoes covered in forests in central Africa.
Some good news: the local authorities announced that their numbers have increased by a quarter to over 1,000 gorillas since 2010.
See why the trip was extra special for the couple.
A Special Trip
The trip was a really special one for the couple. The two visited Dr. Tara Stoinski, the president of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. They spend lots of quality time with the animals.
“Today is here! We’re landing in Rwanda to go look at the gorillas and to go help them and build a campus,” Ellen said in her video flying into Rwanda.
Not Just Gorillas
But gorillas and giraffes weren’t the only animals they saw during their trip of a lifetime. Ellen and Portia also hung out with a few elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.
They also saw animals during their safari ride in Tanzania. Ellen said how “This was a trip I’ve been waiting my whole life to make.”
Ashton Kutcher made a donation to the fund. You should see how much he donated!
Ellen’s Famous Friends
The organization has already received lots of support from Ellen’s famous friends. Ashton Kutcher is one of them who donated $4 million to The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund.
Ashton and his business partner, Guy Oseary, gave Ellen the incredible gift on her show. They joined their friends at Ripple, a new app that allows a simple way to transfer money, to give Ellen the largest donation yet.
If you’re like Ellen and you love gorillas, you might like to know some interesting things about the animal. And when Ellen was asked ‘why gorillas?’ she had this to say:
“Gorillas are amazing animals. I found out that gorillas and humans share 98 percent of the same DNA. (Isn’t that amazing? I’m pretty sure I have cousins who I share less DNA with.)
Gorillas has so much to offer. See what else…
Gorillas are highly intelligent. One of their amazing abilities is that they can learn sign language and know the meaning of more than 2,000 words.
Gorillas live with their families, where one of them is the leader and is responsible for about 30 other family members. What’s cute is how fascinated they are by their own reflections and spend most of the day grooming each other.
They’re really good climbers and extremely powerful. Gorillas are 6 times stronger than humans. But one of the most amazing features of gorillas is their compassion.
It’s been seen many times how gorillas will go out of their way to protect humans. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund actually did a study on male mountain gorillas and their connection to infants.
Think gorilla fathers and human dads have something in common? Read on…
A new study from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda believes that male mountain gorillas who are nice to infants have greater success in parenting more infants.
Their findings contradict the stereotype of male gorillas – that all they care about is the ability to fight for the dominant position.
One of the Longest-Studied Animals
The study’s senior author, Dr. Tara Stoinski, says “Dian Fossey first went to study these mountain gorillas in the 1960s, with the goal of furthering our understanding of human evolution.”
“More than five decades later, the Fossey Fund’s continued research on this population – which makes them one of the world’s longest-studied animals – is still providing critical insights into what it means to be a gorilla. Or a human,” she added.
There’s a Reason to Study Gorillas
There’s a reason why gorillas are being widely studied. Dr. Stacy Rosenbaum, the former Fossey Fund researcher and the study’s lead author, said…
“Learning about what mountain gorillas do, and why, helps us understand how human males may have started down the unique path to our more-involved form of fatherhood.”
What Female Gorillas Prefer
They think that female gorillas prefer male gorillas for a specific reason. “We don’t fully understand the mechanism, but based on this study, we propose that females preferentially mate with males who are nice to kids,” Rosenbaum said.
Let’s all be thankful for people like Ellen and Portia and everyone who cares for this planet and is willing to put their money where their mouth is. Good luck Ellen, we believe in you!