Actress Sigourney Weaver said Saturday that orphaned gorillas desperately need a permanent rescue and rehabilitation center that's currently being built in the Congo.
The Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education, or GRACE, Center is set to open in March, about a year after construction began. It's a joint project of the Atlanta-based Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and several other organizations.
Fossey made researching the African gorilla population, and rescuing them from poachers and other threats, her life's mission. The Californian lived among the rare mountain gorillas and observed their behavior over roughly 10 years at Karisoke, a research camp she established in Rwanda, before she was killed there in 1985.
Weaver played Fossey in the 1988 movie "Gorillas in the Mist" and is honorary chair of the fund. While filming, Weaver said she spent many days with gorillas.
"These little gorillas just steal your heart. They're very sensitive creatures," she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "So it's no surprise that this is a very demanding and ambitious project, the GRACE Center, but we need it. We have to have it."
Weaver was at Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center Saturday to talk about the center. "Gorillas in the Mist" is set to be shown on a big screen for the first time in about 20 years at Woodruff on Oct. 17 as part of a fundraiser for the gorilla fund.
The center will house orphaned gorillas who may have behavioral, developmental, physical or psychological problems after being rescued from poachers.
Weaver said the center hopes to care for and rehabilitate the gorillas to the point that they may be able to survive in the wild again instead of living out their lives in captivity.
The other organizations partnering with the gorilla fund in this project are the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, Disney's Animal Kingdom, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the national park authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.