When a billionaire announces a new project being built in an abandoned quarry deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, you might not expect it to be dedicated to helping bugs, snakes and salamanders. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle and one of the richest men in the world, is helping to do just that, teaming with the Peninsula Humane Society to create a $50 million one-of-a-kind wildlife refuge, rehabilitation center and education park. 

The cutting-edge Conservation Center for Wildlife Care, intended by Ellison to serve as a model for all that follow, will occupy 170 acres of woodland that was previously used for "a quarry, logging and residential purposes," according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News. An expected 8,500 "patients" will be treated there each year, with particular focus on rehabilitating and saving invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians — species that often aren't "cute" enough to attract funding like other threatened species. 

"It's truly wonderful how people have committed to the condor, and if we came to see it go extinct it would be a very graphic, very philosophical thing," Ken White of the Peninsula Humane Society told Mercury News. "But if we saw the hummingbirds and the bees go extinct, then life for all would end."

Plans right now include 80,000 square feet of buildings, including 50 rehabilitation enclosures and a massive breeding center. A greenhouse and atrium will also be built to grow organic food for both the animals and staff. The site is expected to employ 60 people. 

White added that game-changing projects like this are only possible when one person goes above and beyond the standard donation.

"Almost all our gifts are for $20 or $50 or $100," he said. "We don't see a lot of gifts where there's a comma in the numbers."

While Ellison's specific contribution to the wildlife refuge was not disclosed, White called the number "very significant." 

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Oracle's Ellison to fund wildlife rehab center
Billionaire CEO teaming with animal welfare organization to build a unique wildlife refuge, rehabilitation and education center in the Santa Cruz Mountains.