Hayley Cartwright is a grade school student in Calgary. When she heard about African wild gorillas and the dangers they face, she decided to collect unused cell phones for the Calgary Zoo to help them. The zoo gets about 60 cents for each phone collected. So far she has gathered about 800 and wants to get 200 more. Eight hundred for a little girl is impressive, especially considering the zoo’s 2010 campaign yielded 2500. Also, she only started in February, so she is averaging about 400 a month. Hayley attended an educational event at the Calgary Zoo and learned about gorilla conservation and was inspired to do something about it.
A mineral called Coltan is used in consumer electronics. Mining for it is very destructive and some of it comes from illegal activities in the Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Hundreds of eastern lowland gorillas have died due to the Coltan mining activities. Many men occupied the park during a time when the price of Coltan soared–they killed some gorillas for food, and destroyed their plant-based food sources. Money made from selling the mineral was sometimes used to buy weapons used in long-standing, deadly human conflicts. Even conservationists are sometimes killed by tribal militias for trying to interfere with their illegal money-making pursuits in natural settings.
Recycling cell phones allows the coltan from them to be reused so the price of it does not soar. When the price remains relatively low, there is less demand for it from the Congo and there are less miners in gorilla habitat. (Another factor that drove the price down was the opening of a coltan mine in Australia.) If you want to help wild gorillas, and keep the price of coltan lower, then recycle your cell phones and other consumer electronics such as laptops. Other zoos also have phone recycling programs, so check with one near you to do your cell phone recycling.
Image Credit: Adrian Pingstone