They're Calling on You

Protect gorillas on the brink of extinction - donate your old mobile phone today!

 

How your old mobile phone protects endangered gorillas

One of the biggest threats to gorillas is the illegal mining of coltan, a mineral used in mobile phones - YOU can help protect gorillas in their natural habitat by donating your old phone. Your donation really makes a difference:

  1. Money raised from donated phones will support rangers in the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect Mountain Gorillas (approximately 850 individuals left in the wild).
  2. Donated phones will be refurbished and resold to disadvantaged community groups internationally. This not only reduces the demand for coltan mining in threatened gorilla habitats but also helps people in these communities improve their economic capacity.

Since 2008, over 114,000 phones have been donated and reused or recycled through They're Calling on You, raising more than $208,000 for crucial primate conservation.

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FAQs

Question

Why has Zoos Victoria developed a mobile phone recycling program?

Answer

The program provides people with the opportunity to join Zoos Victoria and the Jane Goodall Institute to conserve Africa’s primate species, simply by donating unused mobile phones. The program hopes to raise awareness of coltan mining crisis, whilst exposing the link between mobile phones and primate species in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Question

What does the program hope to achieve?

Answer

The program contributes to wildlife conservation by:

  • Lessening the demand for coltan mining in gorilla habitat
  • Helping Zoos Victoria raise money to support primate conservation
  • Diverting phones from landfill. Phones are refurbished and resold

Question

What is coltan?

Answer

Coltan, short for columbite tantalite, is a rare and valuable metal in huge demand in today's high technology industries. It is used within many electronic devices such as mobile phones.

With more than 9 million mobile phones sold in Australia in the past 12 months and more than 5 billion phone users worldwide[1] it is not surprising that the illegal coltan trade has rapidly evolved to try and meet the telecommunication needs of the western world.

Question

How does coltan mining impact gorillas?

Answer

Some of the world’s last remaining primate populations live in areas that have an abundant supply of coltan (such as Kuhuzi – Biega National Park). The mining of this metallic ore is causing catastrophic impacts on endangered wildlife species such as the Eastern Lowland and Mountain Gorilla. As the pristine forest is denuded for mining purposes, roads are paved which expose the once protected gorilla populations to poaching, and many fall victim to the bush meat trade.

Question

What happens to money raised through the program?

Answer

Phone Cycle donates a portion of the proceeds generated through the resale of refurbished mobile phones to Zoos Victoria. 50% of this donation supports Zoos Victoria’s Conservation work, the remaining 50% is donated to the Jane Goodall Institute to support their in-situ conservation work in Africa. Funds go towards paying for food rations, clothing and to support wages for rangers protecting national parks.

Question

How is this recycling program different to others?

Answer

  • There are a few main differences. Firstly, mobile phones less than 5 years of age are refurbished rather than recycled. This enables us to make new phones from the old ones giving coltan a second life.
  • Also, this is the only campaign within Australia that raises awareness of the coltan mining issue whilst raising funds for primate conservation. 

Question

Are there alternatives to coltan?

Answer

A more expensive, synthetic alternative is currently available. However Zoos Victoria has been unable to obtain information outlining the environmental impacts of the production of this synthetic material. We therefore encourage people to take action against this issue by donating old mobile phones to the They’re Calling on You mobile phone recycling program to ensure that the coltan currently in our old phones does not go to waste. 

Question

How does Zoo Victoria know that coltan mining is still an issue?

Answer

Zoos Victoria recently had a keeper working at Lwiro Sanctuary in the DRC. This sanctuary is located 4 kilometres from a mining site in the Kuhuzi – Biega National Park and she was able to see the consequences of this mining on a daily basis.

  • Insights from people working on the ground have indicated that the illegally mined coltan is often mined by people working for rebel army groups, dubbed by the Congolese as ‘tin soldiers’.
  • The coltan is then filtered through a ‘middle-man’ and moved across to Kigali, nicknamed by locals ‘coltan-ville’ because of the wealth acquired by coltan.
  • It is shipped out of the Congo and purchased internationally, making it hard to track where the coltan has come from.

Question

What happens to the satchels once they have been distributed?

Answer

The plastic satchels are made from 50% recycled plastic and Phone Cycle will recycle these satchels along with the phones upon return.

Question

Does Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo have the Eastern Lowland Gorilla?

Answer

No. Our ex-situ conservation work is currently focussed on the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) as this is the species that we exhibit. We are utilising the gorillas in our zoo as an ambassador species to motivate conservation efforts to conserve their wild cousins, which benefit Eastern Lowland Gorillas. 

Question

Do you know which telecommunication companies are perpetuating this illegal trade?

Answer

No. Although many telecommunication corporations claim that they are purchasing coltan from ‘ethical’ sources, the mining in the DRC continues. Once the coltan makes it onto the market it is impossible to track where the coltan has come from. Until adequate regulatory measures are put in place there will be no way of knowing for sure. Zoos Victoria therefore advises that recycling all phones is the best way for Australians to feel assured that they are contributing to the solution rather than the problem.

Did you know?

What we've achieved so far

  • 114,509
    Phones saved from landfill (May 2014)
  • $208,800
    Raised for primate conservation

Each phone you donate feeds an eco-guard for one day. Funds supply food rations and equipment to eco-guards who protect national parks and educate local communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.