Gorillas on the Line… Answer the Call
Happy New Year, and welcome back from holiday break! Let the New Year’s resolutions begin! If you have green goals for 2020, let us help you and your students set a course to help save wildlife and wild places. There are a number of things that you can do that make a difference, from recycling and carpooling to reducing water usage and shopping locally. And we encourage you to do all of those things in addition to directly saving gorillas. Yes, gorillas.
Besides sharing 98% of the same DNA, gorillas and humans are more connected than one might think. And by connected, I mean our cell phones are directly linked to gorillas. Coltan, a mineral that keeps our phones and tablets from overheating, is mined in the forests of Africa where gorilla species live. This precious mineral that allows us to stream our favorite shows and browse online for hours without frying our phones is negatively affecting gorilla populations in the form of deforestation and habitat loss to disease transmission between humans and these great apes.
In this day and age, it is hard to imagine not having a cell phone, and the latest version at that, but also try to imagine a world without gorillas? There are four subspecies of gorilla and they are all endemic to the central forests of Africa. Gorillas are considered keystone species, meaning they play a critical role in the ecosystem, particularly as seed dispersers. And gorillas are in trouble. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Redlist, all four subspecies are either listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered. But there is something that we can do and it’s pretty significant.
Gorillas on the Line…Answer the Call is a global campaign from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla S.A.F.E. (Saving Animals from Extinction) and the Gorilla Education Advisors to increase recycling of cell phones and small electronics. This campaign runs from February 1 – April 30 and encourages schools, businesses and organizations to help save gorillas by collecting and recycling cell phones. In 2019, the program’s inaugural year, Gorillas on the Line collected and recycled 12,436 devices, raised $6,055 to save gorillas in the wild, and engaged over 260,000 people in gorilla conservation. The goal for 2020 is 20,000 devices, and we hope that you will sign-on to join the cause! As a program participant, teachers will receive weekly emails with gorilla information to help engage your students. Schools will also be entered into Zoo Atlanta’s regional pool to see who collects the most phones for a first and second place prize. In addition to these perks, your students can start the school year off on a green foot and find a good use for all of those outdated cell phones and tablets now that the holidays are over. Conservation is hard and it requires a collective effort. And while we still encourage recycling and carpooling, we believe in engaging students in meaningful conservation work that allows them to see the tangible outcomes while directly connecting them to one of our closest relatives.
For more information and to sign-up for the Gorillas on the Line…Answer the Call campaign, visit http://zooatlanta.org/conservation-action/gorillas-on-the-line/.
Staci Wiech, CIT
Manager of School and Family Programs
Education Advisor, Gorilla SSP and Gorilla SAFE