The Deputy Premier and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Carmel Tebbutt, today attended the birthday celebrations for Taronga's silverback gorilla, Kibabu, to promote a mobile phone recycling plan which helps save gorilla habitat in Africa.
Ms Tebbutt said postage-paid envelopes would be distributed to zoo visitors to encourage the recycling of mobile phones.
The link between mobile phones and gorilla habitat protection is based on coltan, a rare mineral ore containing tantalum, which is used in hi-tech electronics such as mobile phones.
Much of the world's supply of coltan comes from Central Africa, where its mining is directly linked to habitat destruction and the decline of at least 10 of Africa's primate species including Western Lowland Gorillas.
"Australians upgrade their mobile every 18 to 24 months resulting in millions of mobiles being dumped in landfill every year," Ms Tebbutt said.
"By simply donating an old mobile phone the pressure placed on gorilla habitat is reduced and money raised from refurnished mobiles goes to the Taronga Foundation and the Jane Goodall Institute's conservation programs, including primate conservation work in Africa.
The Zoo is supporting the They're Calling On You campaign and inviting the public to donate their old mobile phones and help save the species through reducing the demand for coltan.
Kibabu and his family celebrated his 32nd birthday with a batch of sugar-free cupcakes.
Taronga's primate supervisor, Louise Grossfeldt, said the zoo had been helping visitors to understand the threats facing the species.
"Now we can also give visitors a call to action that will make a real difference to our closest living relatives. At the end of presentations we will hand out the phone recycling satchels and hope that many of them will be returned with old phones."
The campaign is a major component of the 2009 Year of the Gorilla and originated as a partnership between Melbourne Zoo, Aussie Recycling program and the Jane Goodall Institute.
Representatives from the Jane Goodall Institute, the United Nations Australia Ambassador for the
Year of the Gorilla, Guy Williams, and Richard Towle, acting director of the United Nations Information Centre, attended the event.
Zoo-based breeding programs are critical because the number of gorillas left in the wild in African countries is rapidly declining.