Coltan is a metallic ore that is mined in Africa and elsewhere. It is used within electronic devices including many mobile phones and is in huge demand in today’s high technology industries. The illegal mining within the Congo River Basin is pushing gorillas and other species towards extinction.
Western Lowland Gorillas are endangered, but are more common than their relatives, the Mountain Gorillas. The Lowland Gorillas at Taronga Zoo are ambassadors for all the threatened primate species in this fragile and politically conflicted region.
Taronga Zoo and other Australian zoos are running a campaign aimed at raising awareness about the plight of gorillas, by encouraging visitors to recycle their old mobile phones. By recycling your mobile phone you are:
- Diverting your phone from landfill
- Recycling the coltan in your phone, and thus reducing the demand for coltan mining
- Donating money to primate conservation in Africa and the Jane Goodall Institute through the sale of refurbished phones
A global breeding program has been implemented for this species, an insurance in case of catastrophic declines in the wild. Taronga Zoo participates in this program for the Australasian region. Zoo-based breeding groups like Taronga's are increasingly vital following the announcement by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature at the International Primatological Society Conference in 2008, that almost half of the world's 634 primate species face extinction.