By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Zoo holds birthday parties for many of its animals throughout the year. It’s a way to not only celebrate, but to educate.

It’s Amani’s turn to to take her place in the spotlight. The Western lowland gorilla is 3 years old.

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Many visitors wished her happy birthday and made cards, as the birthday girl enjoyed an ice cake with members of her troop.

Amani is named after an orphaned gorilla living at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The species is considered critically endangered in the wild.

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Credit: CBS3

Michael Stern is the curator of primates and small mammals at the Philadelphia Zoo. He says there are simple things we all can do to help save gorillas’ lives in the wild, like recycling your cellphones and small electronics.

“Every cellphone and small electronic has something in it called coltan. That’s a rare earth element and the easiest place to find it is in the Congo, and that’s the heart of gorilla territory,” Stern said. “So if we all recycle our old phones and electronic devices when we’re done with them, you can go out and buy a new one knowing they didn’t need to dig up more of the Congo to find that coltan, they’re able to salvage it from recycled phones.”

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Many of the zoo’s animals serve as ambassadors to their species in the wild.