Cellphones or Gorillas?
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO -- The 100 to 130 surviving
Grauer's gorillas (Gorilla berebgei graueri) in the Kahuzi-Biega
National Park, are facing extinction because of growing demand for
cellphones. The critical cellphone capacitors are made from the mineral
colombo tantalite (coltan) and one of two known deposits of the mineral
lies inside the park. The demand for 500 million new cellphones in 2001
has driven up the cost of coltan to the point that smugglers are now
building illegal airstrips in the forests to spirit the coltan to
foreign buyers. The Kahuzi-Biega Park, a United Nations World Heritage
Site, is occupied by the invading armies of Rwanda and Uganda. Uganda
has acted to protect the park; Rwanda has allowed thousands of miners to
pillage the park, slaughtering wild monkeys and antelope for food.