The first lowland gorilla born in the Los Angeles Zoo in 20 years is building her fan base while raising awareness about the connection between cell phone manufacturing and critically endangered gorilla populations.
Baby Angela was born last month to mom N’dijia and dad Kelly. Along with Rapunzel and Evelyn, the LA Zoo is now home to five western lowland gorillas. This species is native to Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because only about 100,000 western lowland gorillas still survive in the wild, any new baby is cause for celebration.
Female lowland gorillas typically give birth every six to seven years in the wild. But the stress of captivity often short-circuits normal breeding habits. So far, mom and baby seem extremely bonded, zookeepers told the Today Show. N’dijia carries Angela around constantly, and Kelly shows affection by sniffing the baby and sometimes putting his lips against her.
Gorillas in the wild face many dangers, including poachers, diseases, such as Ebola, and mining operations. While these threats may seem far away from the life of the average city dweller, most humans have a direct tie to gorillas through their cell phones. The Congo Basin is rich in coltan, a black metallic ore used in mobile phone manufacturing. Not only do miners disrupt gorilla life and ruin habitats, the miners — who are often there illegally — hunt wildlife, including gorillas, for food.
Recycling your old cell phones is an easy way to help gorillas. A recycling company called ECO-CELL partners with primate conservation groups including Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), the Jane Goodall Institute and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Many zoos in the U.S. and Canada collect phones for ECO-CELL. So far, the company has recycled about 1 million cell phones. Phones that still work are sometimes reused by gorilla care staff and in veterinary labs.
“ECO-CELL’s focus is squarely on the informed consumer piece,” Eric Ronay, founder of ECO-CELL, told Mongabay. “If we can reach consumers en masse, especially young consumers, and inspire them to demand ethical, gorilla-safe products, then the entire electronics landscape will change dramatically.”
Image by Jamie Pham via LA Zoo