Visitors at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund can learn to speak like a mountain gorilla by engaging in an entertaining, interactive experience.
Client: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Falcon’s Creative Group was honored to collaborate with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and its hard-working president and chief scientific officer, Dr. Tara Stoinski, to bring Gorilla Chat to fruition at the non-profit’s beautiful new headquarters and research lab in Rwanda. The eco-friendly Ellen Campus, which is just outside Volcanoes National Park in east-central Africa, represents the Fossey Fund’s 20-year dream to build a purposeful, permanent facility near the home of mountain gorillas that would accelerate their science and conservation work.
In addition to closely collaborating with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Falcon’s had the pleasure of working with the campus’s award-winning architectural design firm, MASS Design Group, to ensure the best possible guest experience.
Falcon’s designed the Gorilla Chat interactive so that guests of all ages can enjoy learning some of the common vocalizations that these critically endangered animals make. They include pig grunt, chest beat, laughing, singing, and crying. Guests press a button to hear the sound from a gorilla, then they are able to try it themselves. With each successful attempt, a video plays illustrating how gorillas use that sound to communicate. The game also features fun videos and captivating images of mountain gorillas.
Humans and gorillas are closely related, which is why we share so many traits with our furry, intellectual friends; vocalizations are just one of many examples. In the spirit of education, which is a major component of the new facility, the Fossey Fund asked Falcon’s to highlight a few of these striking similarities. Every time a Gorilla Chat participant successfully mimics a vocalization, they are treated to a screen showing images of gorillas and humans that are, for lack of a better term, acting out the call. This screen is accompanied with text and voice-over that explains when and why the sounds are produced and how the gorilla behavior correlates to human behavior.
The Gorilla Chat system utilizes a touch screen, video monitor, and an embedded microphone. There is an ADA version and two language options – English and Kinyarwanda. Falcon’s designed the user experience and graphics, handled all programming, and tested, tested, and retested until they were sure that this experience would be a home run with all visitors, no matter their ability.
Falcon’s is extremely proud to have contributed to the public’s experience at this enriching, state-of-the-art facility that will further the mission of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund - protecting gorillas while helping and educating the people who live near them.
The campus has generated well-deserved buzz in the conservation community as well as the mainstream media. Dr. Stoinski and her team hosted CBS News’s 60 Minutes crew in one of the highest profile pieces. During the interview, Tara showed Lesley Stahl the Gorilla Chat interactive and gave the veteran interviewer a chance to try one of the vocalizations, creating a very memorable moment.
Gorilla Chat is one of many notable installations at this amazing destination. There is also a collection of Dian Fossey’s original artifacts, virtual and augmented reality experiences, an immersive 360-degree theater, indoor and outdoor classroom space, a scientific conservation library, an extensive living laboratory, and an exhibit that details the groundbreaking research that Fossey conducted and how her legacy continues to make an impact. Perhaps most important to the Fossey Fund is the amount of laboratory space they now have, which is a 500% increase over their old lab space.
Academy award-winning actor and conservationist, Leonardo DiCaprio, was one of many generous donors who contributed to this impressive project. The lead gift came from Ellen DeGeneres and her wife, Portia de Rossi, which is why Ellen’s name is on the building.