Zoo Atlanta will close early on Sat., May 25 for Brew at the Zoo. Gates will close at 1:30 p.m. and grounds will close at 3 p.m. 

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Conservation Connections – Saving Gorillas 

As I reflect on all that was 2020, I can’t help but recognize and appreciate the fact that this year gave us new ways to connect with friends, family, coworkers, and total strangers around the world. Amidst a global pandemic that drove us apart, we innovated, pivoted, created, and designed opportunities that allowed connection to one another.  Meetings and classes were held on virtual platforms with the constant reminder to ask someone to unmute or mute. Family time included quarantine movie marathons, and calls to grandparents took place over Zoom. Birthday parties became drive-by events, and meals and happy hours with friends were held with everyone at least six feet apart, outside, in small pods. In 2020, we did what we do best – think outside the box and find a way to carry on. With this new year ahead of us, I, like many of you, have high hopes for great things to come and hope that we can take some of the lessons that we learned in 2020 and apply them to 2021.  

With all of these adaptations to normal life, one of the biggest eye-openers for me was that we live in a world and a time in our lives where we could not operate without our devices – smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Imagine 2020 without the technologies that we have today. As I think about all the ways that technology helped keep us connected last year, I am also reminded of the conservation impact and the connection between electronics and gorillas.   

Take a minute to study your cell phone or tablet. Have you ever considered what’s inside, how it all works, and where all the parts and pieces came from? Inside each of our devices, maybe even the one you are holding now, are a combination of minerals and metals that each serve a purpose. Coltan, short for columbite–tantalites and also referred to as tantalum, is found in the batteries of electronic devices and, simply put, keeps devices from overheating. What’s not simple is the story behind extracting coltan from the Earth. While coltan is found in different regions of the world and is fairly easy to extract, the majority of this mineral is mined in prime gorilla habitat in central Africa. In addition to the wars that have waged over mining rights and poor working conditions, gorillas are suffering from the human need for this precious metal. Habitats are destroyed and gorillas and humans continue to come in closer contact with one another, leading to poaching and disease transmission. There are four gorilla subspecies, and all are either listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered. Our need for electronic devices and the connections that they create are also threats to the survival of these amazing creatures.  
So now knowing this connection between gorillas and electronic devices, how do we move forward in a way that helps gorilla populations instead of harming them? One of the easiest things you can do is ensure that coltan and other minerals get a second life. By recycling our devices, we ensure that gorillas have a chance at survival and proceeds from recycled devices support conservation organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. To get involved, gather your students and join the Gorillas on the LineAnswer the Call campaign and connect with others around the country to recycle old devices by registering here. Between February 1 and April 30, your classroom, school, or business can work collectively to make a difference for gorillas and other species that call the forests of Africa home. You can also simply drop off your old device at Zoo Atlanta and we will recycle it for you. And if you don’t live in the area, visit https://www.eco-cell.com/ to learn about your closest drop-off location, find out how to mail directly back to ECOCELL, and learn more about the link between gorillas and coltan.   

More than ever, we are globally connected to each other as we navigate through this pandemic. As we enter 2021, I challenge you to continue to think outside the box and to innovate new ways that we can stay connected and new ways that we can help save gorillas and other wildlife. With Gorillas on the Line … Answer the Call, I can’t think of a better way to come together in the name of conservation and create consciousness around the devices that allow us to stay connected. Happy New Year, and I hope you will join us to save gorillas in 2021!  


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