If you have attended keeper talks around the Zoo, you have likely heard our animal care team say that visitors can help save species by doing three simple actions: reduce, reuse and recycle. Recycling is common in many households and businesses. It can have a tremendous impact on gorillas’ lives as well as the surroundings in which they live in the wild. One of the metals inside electronic devices that can be recycled is called tantalum, and it is mined from areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where gorillas live. Tantalum is extracted from the ore Columbite-tantalite (commonly known as coltan). It is heat-resistant and can hold a high electrical charge.
Coltan excavation has resulted in gorilla habitat destruction, and many of the apes fall victim to poachers because of this practice. To help combat these and other abuses, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires United States companies to disclose their coltan mining sources. One way we can help protect these natural resources is by recycling our cell phones, laptops, cameras, gaming consoles, hearing aids, GPS navigation systems, as well as other electronic devices. It may sound like a small action, but recycling electronics can greatly help reduce the need for more expansive coltan mining.