September 24 is World Gorilla Day, which recognizes not just the majesty of gorillas, with whom we share more than 98% of our DNA, but also the threats to survival they face on our warming planet. Gorillas live in the Congo basin, in the second-largest forest left on earth, a forest that plays a critical role in our fight against climate change.
But the Congo basin is so far away, and the problems gorillas face are so daunting—how can one person possibly help?
You’re probably holding the answer in your hand right now: your cell phone.
Smartphones, computers and other small electronics rely on a metallic ore called coltan to keep them powered up and working. Coltan is also used to make electric cars, medical equipment and other electronic devices more energy efficient. There is no substitute for coltan, which is prized for its ability to withstand extreme temperatures and to hold and move electrical signals.
But one of the few place on earth where coltan is found is in the forest of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is also the only home of the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla. The majority of coltan mining is illegal and controlled by rebel groups; mining has greatly contributed to the devastation of both human and wildlife populations in the region. To feed the miners, wildlife is hunted, including iconic species like Grauer’s gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants. As a result, the Grauer’s population has declined by an estimated almost 80% over the last two decades—that means four out of every five Grauer’s gorillas remaining on the planet has been killed.
The good news is that coltan is recyclable. You can help reduce the pressures on the forest where these endangered gorillas live simply by recycling your old electronics in a responsible way. After using your smartphone and other electronic devices as long as you can, drop them off at your local participating zoo, or go to eco-cell.com to find other ways to recycle these products safely. And here’s an extra bonus: Any time you recycle a phone through Eco-Cell, they make a donation to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which means you’re helping gorillas in more ways than one.
This September, in honor of World Gorilla Day, look around your house for old electronics, and ask friends and family to do the same. Any devices can be recycled—no matter how old they are. Gorillas need your help. Answer the call today.