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They're Calling on You
Protect gorillas on the brink of extinction - donate your old mobile phone today!
- Have a few old mobile phones lying around? Become a donor today!
- Want to get your school or workplace involved in saving gorillas? Run a mobile phone collection drive
- Subscribe to our quarterly Conservation E-News for campaign updates
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 will help by:
- 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)
- 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.
Why has Zoos Victoria developed a mobile phone recycling program?
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).
What does the program hope to achieve?
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
What is coltan?
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 it is not surprising that the illegal coltan trade has rapidly evolved to try and meet the telecommunication needs of the western world.
How does coltan mining impact gorillas?
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.
What happens to money raised through the program?
Aussie Recycling Program donate 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.
How is this recycling program different to others?
- 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.
- Finally, ARP re-sell the refurbished mobile phones at low prices to disadvantaged community groups internationally which enhances the communication capacity of less fortunate community groups.
Are there alternatives to coltan?
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.
How does Zoo Victoria know that coltan mining is still an issue?
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.
What happens to the satchels once they have been distributed?
The plastic satchels are made from a recyclable plastic and ARP recycle these satchels along with the phones upon return.
Does Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo have the Eastern Lowland Gorilla?
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.
Do you know which telecommunication companies are perpetuating this illegal trade?
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.
What we've achieved so far
Phones saved from landfill (May 2014)
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 DRC.