One of the world's richest men, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, is using some of his wealth to establish a wildlife breeding and rehabilitation center in Northern California that will focus on helping endangered insects, reptiles and amphibians thrive.

The Conservation Center for Wildlife Care that the Lawrence Ellison Foundation Ellison has promised to underwrite will treat all kinds of wild critters but its captive breeding program will be devoted to local species that typically don't get much attention, including the San Francisco garter snake, the Pacific giant salamander and the vanishing Lange's metalmark butterfly, Peninsula Humane Society President Ken White told the San Jose Mercury News (http://bit.ly/1wiva2a ).

White did not disclose the size of Ellison's donation, but described it as "very significant." Based on estimates he provided, the Mercury News said the center would cost about $50 million to build. The Humane Society will run the facility and pay for staffing and maintenance.

Ellison "has been very kind to this organization," White said. "There's not enough money for any charitable causes, and there's even less for those involving animals. And among those causes, ones benefiting local wildlife are at the bottom."

The billionaire known for flashy forays in yacht sailing — his team has won the last two America's Cups — and tropical living — he bought the Hawaiian island of Lanai three years ago — previously gave the Peninsula Humane Society $3 million to build a new headquarters south of San Francisco. But when it comes to wildlife, his philanthropy until now has been focused abroad. He has long been involved with gorilla conservation in Africa and more recently supported efforts to protect elephants from ivory poachers.

The new California center will be located on a former quarry and logging site in the Santa Cruz Mountains above the city of Saratoga. Ellison's foundation bought the land, 170 acres that the Mercury News said was valued at $5.5 million.

Chris Nagano, chief of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife's endangered species division, said that with its focus on invertebrates — insects and other species without backbones — the center would be the first of its kind and provide needed expertise at a time when butterflies and bees are threatened.

"People from all over the world will be looking at this," Nagano said.


Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com