We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2014 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

For the second year, my school is participating in the Action For Apes cell phone recycling challenge.  Schools and businesses are invited to take action and enter this competition.  The goal of the program is to recycle as many old cell phones as you can.  The top prize is a really cool painting done by the chimps here at the Houston Zoo.  Rasco Middle School, where I went to school last year, won the painting and it is still hanging up in the hallway.  That is great for Rasco, but now I need a chimp painting for the hallway at Lake Jackson Intermediate.  I am hoping my school will step up and accept this challenge.
action for apes

Whether my school wins or loses, the real winners are the chimps and apes that live in the African Congo.   That is where the mineral coltan is mined.  Coltan is the material in electronics that holds electric charges.  The coltan is really being mined hard on the boundary of the Kahuzi  Biega National Park.  There, the gorilla population has been cut in half due to the mining of coltan.  The forest there that was once lush and green is being torn down and dug up.  The amount of coltan that is being exported every year is increasing largely.

Coltan is mined kind of like gold was mined back in the 1800s.  Large holes are dug, layers of dirt are put into screens, and then water is added to wash away the small pieces.  What’s left are the chunks of coltan.

We can help though.  If we reduce the need for coltan by recycling our old phones and electronics, we reduce the amount of mining that needs to be done.  You can help reduce the need for mining coltan by joining the Action for Apes challenge.  Encourage your school or business to take part.  You can also take your old phones to the Houston Zoo to recycle.  (Or you can give them to me!) Even if my school does not win the painting, we have won part of this battle for the Congo by teaching people about this problem.  Be a hero and recycle your electronics today.