Save a gorilla with your old iPhone

A group of students in Miami have set out to help save the gorillas of central Africa – and with your help, they’ll do it.

Photo credit flickr: Just chaos and flickr: emerille.

They’re asking everyone to drop off their old cell phones that are no longer in use to OE 246 or OE 167 at Modesto A. Maidique Campus. Phones may be dropped off at those two locations through Dec. 8 and then again beginning Jan. 7.

Claudia Alvarez Mendez, a biology major, is leading the awareness campaign. She learned of the plight of gorillas after taking a class with Sian Evans, an FIU primate biology instructor who is managing director of the DuMond Conservancy. Gorillas are losing their habitat due to the illegal mining of coltan, an ore that’s extracted and refined to tantalum metal and used in a range of electronics equipment. Twice as dense as steel and resistant to heat and corrosion, coltan can store and release an electrical charge. It is found in capacitors of electronics, including cell phones. Many companies have agreed to re-use the capacitors from old cell phones, helping preserve the native habitat of gorillas. (Many zoos around the world participate in the collection of old cell phones, including Zoo Miami.)

“Dr. Evans’ class made me realize how much trouble Great Apes are in and the need for immediate answers,” says Mendez. She got together with some like-minded students who wanted to help raise awareness of the issue. Together they’ve formed a new student organization – Students for Great Ape Conservation – that they anticipate will be recognized officially by the university in January.