Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gorillas and your Mobile Phone

So what is it that links the magnificent gorilla to our mobile phones?  A product called coltan, (or columbo-tantalite).  Coltan is used to coat the capacitors in mobile phones and 80% of it comes from Africa and much of that comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo and, of course, its illegal mining is causing the loss of habitat for the eastern lowland gorilla, and increased road construction also makes life for the poachers much easier, so more gorillas end up as bush meat.

It is illegal to mine coltan in the Congo, and yet it is estimated that over 10,000 people moved into just one national park in 2004 to work in these illegal mines.
 These miners must be fed and bush meat, from many animals is used.  It is believed an entire population of elephants have been destroyed for bush meat and in the past five years more than 50% of the gorilla population has been lost in the Kahuzi Biega National Park.  This puts them close to extinction.

As we go through our daily lives we simply do not realise how our lifestyle affects animal populations.  Who knew that our consumption of mobile phones was linked to the destruction of the gorilla?

There is some good news to this story.  (Thank goodness, do I hear you say). 
We can do two major things to help.

1) Stop changing mobile phones so often. It's a phone, not a fashion accessory
Here are some numbers from the Jane Goodall Institute of Australia

  • More than 800 million people around the world currently use mobile phones.  
  • In Australia alone, it is estimated that there were 9 million new mobile phones sold in the last 12 months.
  • The average Australian typically upgrades their phones every 18-24 months
  • It is estimated that there are more mobile phones in Australia than there are people.
  • Each day in America, 426, 000 phones are retired.
2) When you do need to change phone, recycle your phone through an outlet where you know the coltan will be reused.
I'm sure there are recycling programs throughout the world.  Here in Australia the Jane Goodall Institute, in conjunction with participating Zoos and Aquaria and Aussie Recycling program, have developed Australia’s first mobile phone recycling program and several local groups are joining in.   

So, every time your mobile phone rings, think of the gorillas who have helped make that possible.  As I posted recently, we have lost 31% of the world's animals since 1970.  Most of us have this false belief that we haven't contributed to that number.  Sadly we all have.  Now we are realising it, we can all do our bit. So when it comes to changing over, please don't send the old phone to landfill, find a good recycling place for it and know you are helping to save one of the earth's most magnificent creatures.  Also let's ask the phone manufacturers what they are doing to stop this illegal mining.


  1. Some good information but just to let you know, there are no mountain gorillas in Kahuzi- Biega

  2. Hi Rick and thank you for your comment. You've now helped me to learn even more about gorillas, and although I've found several references to mountain gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega, I've found more, and perhaps more credible sites, that only refer to the eastern lowland gorilla, so I've amended the posting to remove mountain as I'd mentioned the eastern lowland originally. Seriously thank you as I want this blog to reflect reality. Best wishes, Cheryl

  3. With many programs, initiatives and indeed Mobile Phone Recycling companies there really aren't any excuses to not recycle your old mobile phone. Discarding mobile phones is dangerous for the environment as they contain hazardous substances. Not only that they can be recycled meaning that not as many new phones are needed to be manufactured. You can even have all those benefits and save yourself money too. I recently used Recycle Mobile Phones to compare the prices of recycling companies. It really is the perfect win:win scenario.

  4. Great recycling site for the UK Mike, many thanks. Hope we see comments if people have alternatives in other places. It all helps.


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