Recycle your phone to save the gorilla

By Melissa Leong 7 November 2013
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World Environment Day is here, and gorillas are a species of focus.

IT’S WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY tomorrow ( 5 June) and this year’s launch is in Rwanda, where there’s a big focus on saving the gorilla. But there are also initiatives in Australia lending a hand to the world’s biggest apes.

The ‘Answer the Call’ project of Australia Zoo and Flora and Fauna International (FFI) to save gorillas in Central Africa started in March 2009. Its aim is to collect mobile phones for reusing and recycling.

The mobile phone industry consumes huge amounts of coltan (columbite-tantalite), a non-renewable, non-recyclable metallic ore. Unfortunately, “eighty per cent of the world’s known resources of the coltan ore are found in central Africa which is the only home of gorillas,” says Giles Clark, international conservation manager at Australia Zoo.

The project reduces the demand of coltan, keeping mobile phones out of landfill and putting them in the hands of people from developing countries. Funds generated from the project are also pumped directly into gorilla conservation projects.

The Answer the Call project collects just a fraction of the mobile phones discarded. So far, only about 2550 mobile phones have been collected – out of over 20 million unused and unwanted mobiles phones in Australia. “We already owe our children an explanation for the state of the planet they will inherit; let’s not allow the extinction of the gorilla to be yet another apology,” says Giles.

With all species and subspecies of gorillas currently threatened with extinction, it is no surprise that Rwanda, one of their only homes, is zooming in on gorilla conservation at this year’s World Environment Day. The global community can also get involved in the baby gorilla naming ceremony or register their activities to raise funds for these primates. WED is an annual event organised by the United Nations to stimulate global awareness and political attention and action to environmental issues. It was first celebrated in 1972.

This year’s theme: “Many Species, One Planet, One Future” is a constant reminder that all species on earth are interconnected and “inter-affected”. And where better to start conservation than with gorillas who are one of our closest living relatives.

Melissa Leong is a former intern at Australian Geographic.

Sponsor some research through the Australian Geographic Society

Answer the Call video
10:10 initiative
GreenCross World Environment Day campaign