How are cell phones and gorillas connected?


Cassie M.
May 20, 2022

Hello from the Gorilla Care team! My name is Cassie and I am currently a gorilla keeper here at Zoo Atlanta. I’ve had the honor of working with gorillas for over eight years now, so naturally they’re one of my favorite animals. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is sharing with the public not only why I love them so much, but also why they should, which can inspire them to do what they can to help save their lives. wild cousins.

What if I told you that there is something that 97% of the American population owns and uses every day that directly affects gorilla populations in the wild? What could this thing be, you ask? If you guessed a cell phone, you’d be right! These handy devices that we rely on for an embarrassing number of things in our daily lives contain a mineral that is mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is right in the middle of gorilla habitat.

Coltan, a metallic ore, is a major component of cell phones and other electronic devices. It’s what allows our devices to hold a charge, which we all agree is essential in everyday life. It’s no surprise that this mineral is in huge demand as humans become increasingly dependent on technology, especially if we can hold it in our hands. E-waste has a huge impact on the planet, more than any other consumer product. A lot of energy, resources and materials are needed to make these gadgets. Unfortunately, not only is much of this particular mineral found in gorilla habitats, but it is also considered a conflict mineral, which means that the mining of coltan and other desirable materials has funded wars in this war-torn country. This also means that mining is considered one of the few profitable sources of income.

Apart from the humanitarian problems facing the region, the mining of coltan and other desirable materials also destroys the ecosystem. Populations of critically endangered gorillas are being decimated as their habitats are destroyed to allow mining, and poachers hunt them for the bushmeat trade. Habitat loss is not just limited to gorillas; hundreds or even thousands of other species also live in the same area.

But there are many ways YOU can help, and it’s as simple as recycling your old devices that have probably been forgotten in a junk drawer or an old shoebox. It’s true, by recycling your old devices, it reduces the demand to extract more coltan, thus slowing the destruction of native gorilla habitats. Zoo Atlanta, along with many other zoos across the country, has partnered with a company called Eco-Cell whose mission is to reduce electronic waste and help save gorillas in the process. Eco-Cell refurbishes any usable devices or parts they receive and recycles any that are left. Another easy way to help out is to just use whatever phones or devices you have until they’re deemed obsolete, instead of upgrading them every couple of years like cellphone companies us. encourage them to do so. And for all those young people who want to get in on the action, try setting up a cell phone player with your school class or scout group!

Mobile phones are not the only devices accepted by Eco-Cell. Tablets, MP3 players, Apple/Android watches, GPS systems, eReaders, digital cameras and portable game systems can also be recycled. Electronics recycled through this program don’t need to be in working order, and all types of cell phones are accepted, even old Nokia or Blackberry phones that you don’t know what to do with! I encourage you to check out the Eco-Cell website at to learn more about this amazing program and the amazing things they are doing to help with gorilla conservation. If you have old devices that you would like to recycle, they can be sent directly to Eco-Cell or brought to Zoo Atlanta and dropped off at the front door or in the Eco-Cell drop box at Ford Willie B. Gorilla Conservation Center at Gorilla

Habitat 3. While you’re here, be sure to check out our family group of resident gorillas, including little Floyd! If you are not local to the Atlanta area, check the Eco-Cell website for a complete list of drop off locations across the United States. I hope you consider this program and the gorillas when upgrading your devices, and remember how important the simple act of recycling can be!

Cassie M.
Guardian III, Primates


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