In modern society not owning a mobile phone is almost unheard of. Everyone and their dog has some sort of mobile phone, and it’s not uncommon for many people to have two or more. And while a mobile phone has a shelf life, many phones are thrown out prematurely and replaced with the newer models, making the demand for mobile phones greater than usual. Unfortunately, this has dire consequences for one of the world’s most critically endangered animal species, an animal who's genetic makeup is almost 98 percent simialr to that of humans, the eastern lowland gorilla subspecies.
Image: Western Lowland Gorilla, Rick Stevens
Mobile phones contain a number of hazardous substances that can impact the environment when discarded. Many phones have been manufactured with a metallic ore called coltan. This special material is mostly found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the eastern lowland gorilla. Unfortunately, the mining of coltan has resulted in widespread destruction of critical gorilla habitat, affecting the fragile ecosystem they live in. The mining of coltan has already accelerated the decline of gorilla numbers, as well as, 10 other African primate species.
By recycling unused cell phones, you can help protect gorillas, as recycling of old phones reduces the need for new ones. In turn, this will decrease the demand for coltan. Recycling also ensures that other hazardous materials aren’t being dumped in the environment.
Image: Kibali, Paul Fahy
Old mobile phones can be recycled by bringing them to Taronga Zoo and placing them in the bin at the information desk. By doing this you stop your phone from entering landfills and spreading toxic materials, . Also, through sale of recycled coltan and refurbished phones, money is raised for Jane Goodall Institute’s conservation programs, including primate conservation work in Africa. And by recycling old phones the demand for coltan will decrease as will the need to mine in the Congo.
“Look for companies that are committed to using only Conflict Free minerals, which don’t impact gorillas and other primates, while also supporting greater economic opportunities and safety for miners and their families,” says Belinda Fairbrother, Taronga’s Community Conservation Manager.
Since 2009, Taronga has collected over 49,000 mobile phones and raised almost $90,000 for vital primate conservation work through the Jane Goodall Institute.
This National Recycling Week make sure to recycle your old phones at places like Taronga Zoo, and help save one of our closest living relatives, the gorilla.
Video: Hayden Turner with Gorillas.
Lead Image: Western Lowland Gorilla, Rick Stevens