Talking the Apes to Death

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Save the Eastern Lowland Gorilla: How our gadgets can impact the world's largest primate
by Mickey Z.
The predominantly herbivorous Eastern Lowland Gorilla is a subspecies of Eastern Gorilla found in the forests of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although sociable and peaceful, these gorillas are under siege and part of the blame lands on our insatiable thirst for consumer electronics.

Here's how the United Nations describes it: "Columbite-tantalite—coltan for short—is a dull metallic ore found in major quantities in the eastern areas of Congo. When refined, coltan becomes metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge."
 
As explained here, "tantalum from coltan is used in consumer electronics products such as cell phones, DVD players, and computers."
 

 
 
 
 
[For complete article reference links, please see source here.]
 
 
Why would the UN be involved in describing a component of your cell phone? Well, coltan is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an African nation besieged by a particularly brutal civil war (even by today's standards). The mining and sale of coltan is used by both sides in the conflict to fund their military mayhem. In addition, the UN explains:
 
"In order to mine for coltan, rebels have overrun Congo's national parks, clearing out large chunks of the area's lush forests. In addition, the poverty and starvation caused by the war have driven some miners and rebels to hunt the parks' endangered elephants and gorillas for food."
 
Within the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the number of Eastern Lowland Gorillas has declined by 90% over the past 5 years, and only 3,000 now remain.

Efforts like the Great Apes Survival Partnership are working to help Eastern Lowland Gorillas but we must also examine our way of life to learn how our daily choices play a role.
 
For example, with roughly 3 million tons of household electronics tossed by Americans each year, greening our gadgetry is a pretty simple way to start. Part of greening our gadgetry is repairing and reusing as much as we can, hence lowering the demand for coltan. Sure, you might also wanna adopt a gorilla but no matter what action you choose, keep talking and blogging and agitating until more and more people make the connections between lifestyle choices and major global issues.

Related Posts:
2009: Year of the Gorilla
Quiz: Know Your Endangered Species?

Got a tip or a post idea for us to write about on Planet Green? Email pgtips (at) treehugger (dot) com.  
 

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