gorillas-mountain-wwf-martin-harvey.jpgWorld Environment Day kicks off tomorrow, June 5, in Rwanda, a country of exceptional biodiversity that has made “huge strides in environmental protection,” according to the UN Environmental Program, which produces the annual celebration.

Rwanda recently pledged along with nine other African nations to continue supporting the recovery of the great ape. But, people in other countries around the world are helping too.

You can lend a hand to this threatened species by recycling your cell phone, or better yet, creating a neighborhood or school event that collects phones from an entire community.

The mobile phone industry consumes huge amounts of the metallic ore, coltan. Mining of this non-renewable metal takes place mostly in central Africa, the sole habitat of the majestic gorilla.

Photo credit: WWF, Martin Harvey

“Most people don’t know that there’s a connection between this metal in their cell phones and the well-being of wildlife in the area where it’s mined,” Karen Killmar, an associate curator at the San Diego Zoo, told the National Geographic magazine in 2006.

“Recycling old cell phones is a way for people to do something very simple that could reduce the need for additional coltan … and help protect the gorillas,” she said.

Many zoos in American cities run yearlong phone recycling programs to support habitat protection. 88 of them have joined forces with the nonprofit Eco-Cell, a phone recycling hub for environmentally-minded fundraisers. The collaboration provides much needed support for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to protect endangered gorillas, while helping to reduce the incentive for armed groups to invade the gorilla’s habitat.

Santa Barbara Zoo spokeswoman Michelle Green said profits garnered from the sale of refurbished phones will be used to fund full-time “eco-guards” – educators charged with informing local populations about the environmental hazards of hunting endangered lowland gorilla species.

An initiative launched last year in Australia collects that country’s used or discarded phones for redistribution to developing nations. The Answer the Call project has so far gathered about 2550 mobile phones in cooperation with the Australia zoo. Also tapped are schools and corporations. All income generated from the recycling of non-usable phones is pumped directly into gorilla conservation projects.

Starting a collection drive locally to celebrate World Environment Day is a great conservation effort, too, keeping trash out of landfills.

Leave a Reply