Zoos Recycle Cellphones to Save Animal Habitats

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At the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, an ongoing drive helps prevent the disruption of gorilla habitat. Photo: Cincinnati Zoo

At the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, an ongoing drive helps prevent the disruption of gorilla habitat. Photo: Cincinnati Zoo

What do you give the gorilla who has everything? A cellphone, of course.

That’s the general idea at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, where an ongoing drive helps prevent the disruption of natural habitats for gorilla populations.

In 2006, the zoo launched a program called Project Saving Species to encourage cellphone recycling. Cellphones contain coltan, a metallic ore often mined in gorilla habitats and used in many electronic devices, particularly cellphones. Recycling coltan reduces the demand for it — which in turn helps save animals and their habitats.

“We really started putting an emphasis on the recycling program in 2010,” says Rhiannon Hoeweler, senior project manager at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Since launching the program, the Cincinnati Zoo has collected about 60,000 cellphones, and has set its goal to become the No. 1 zoo in North America for recycling cellphones. So far, it has reached that goal for four consecutive years. The zoo has used popular promotions such as partnering with the Cincinnati Bengals to get fans to bring in their old cellphones, and drop-off bins are available at the zoo for people who want to recycle their old cellphones.

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