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Action for Apes Challenge

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The 2016 Action for Apes Challenge has ended, please join us next year!


Congratulations to Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi for being the 2016 Action for Apes Winners!


The Action for Apes challenge is a yearly contest hosted by the Houston Zoo to see which school or community organization can recycle the most cell phones by the end of APE-ril. By recycling used cell phones with the Houston Zoo, you help protect animals like chimpanzees and gorillas that live in areas where cell phone materials are mined.

You are always welcome to bring any used cell phone to recycle – we have a drop off bin conveniently located just outside our main entrance gate next to the Guest Services office.

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How does this help save animals like gorillas and chimpanzees?

A material called tantalum is found in almost every cell phone, as well as in other handheld electronics such as tablets and cameras. This metal comes from the ground in Central Africa, which happens to be where animals like chimpanzees and gorillas live. When the metal is taken from these habitats to be used in electronics, the homes of chimps, gorillas and an array of other animals become disrupted and these animal populations decrease.

When you recycle your used cell phone with us…

The materials in the phone can be reused instead of mining new minerals from the ground in Central Africa.

When you recycle your phone at the Houston Zoo, we return it to a company called Eco-Cell that sells the individual parts of the phone so that they can be reused. Any proceeds then go to conservation efforts to help save animals in the wild.

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The derived mineral tantulum is taken from places where animals like chimpanzees and gorillas live to be used in our electronics, especially cell phones.

Who can participate?

Any local school, business, organization, or scout group can participate. Simply complete the registration form at the bottom of this page and start your recycling campaign! Promotional materials are available for you to market the challenge and all phones collected by April 30, 2016 will be recycled through the company Eco-Cell.

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How do I sign my school or organization up?

Fill out the online registration form at the bottom of this page and begin collecting cell phones! Get the word out about the challenge to others in your school or organization by creating posters, hanging up the content provided by the Zoo, spreading the word and having fun saving animals in the wild!

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What are the contest rules?

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All participating institutions must register online before collecting cell phones. Once registered, you will receive an e-mail during the campaign providing you with information to receive your free shipping labels for your school or community organization!
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All phones must be collected by April 30, 2016. Only those cell phones collected by that date will be counted in your total. Cell phone accessories (bluetooth, chargers) will not count in the total but can be recycled in the challenge.  Remember every little bit helps!
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Participating institutions will ship their phones directly to Eco-Cell using a provided shipping label e-mailed to you, postmarked on or before April 30, 2016. Eco-Cell will count the phones to determine the winner.
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The school or organization that recycles the most cell phones by April 30, 2016 will receive a unique painting done by one of the Zoo’s gorilla troops. Both the first and second place schools/organizations will receive recognition on our Houston Zoo Facebook pages and social media outlets.
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The Houston Zoo will announce the Action for Apes 2016 winners no later than May 20, 2016.
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Schools and organizations begin by  creating your own recycling bin and decorating it with Houston Zoo promotional materials as well as any artwork designed by participants.
Learn more about cell phone recycling in the new Great Ape Gallery at Gorillas

What do we win if we collect the most phones?

The school or organization that recycles the most cell phones by April 30, 2016 will win a one-of-a-kind painting done by one of the Houston Zoo’s gorilla troops! The painting can be hung at your institution as a reminder of your efforts to protect chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild.

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On the left, a painting created by Houston Zoo chimpanzees. On the right, a painting created by one of the Houston Zoo’s gorilla troops. The winner receives a painting created just for your school or group!

Stayed Tuned to Register for 2017’s Challenge

Before donating your device: Make sure you terminate your service or switch your contract to a new phone. Clear any personal data from the phone by removing the SIM card or manually removing the information. On most cell phones, you can find “Reset Phone” under “Phone Settings.” Turn your phone off, if your phone’s battery is still charged.

You can collect and recycle any of the following:

  • Cell phones
  • Smart phones
  • iPods or other MP3 players
  • iPads or other tablets
  • Wifi hot spots
  • Digital cameras
  • Handheld gaming devices
  • GPS
  • Electronic accessories such as chargers, blue tooth headsets, etc.

Video: Action for Apes


How local students are participating in Action for Apes, and how you can too!


Printables for Promoting Your Campaign
Print these PDFs and post them around your school or organization to get the word out about recycling cell phones:

Action for Apes Information Package

Action for Apes Mandrill Sign

Action for Apes Gorilla Sign

Action for Apes Chimp Sign

 Action for Apes Parent Letter


Questions? Contact conservation@houstonzoo.org