US/World

Indonesian Orangutan With Decade Long Smoking Habit Forced to Go Cold Turkey

Tori the teenage orangutan became hooked on cigarettes at Taru Jurug zoo by mimicking the behavior of visitors.
Tori the teenage orangutan became hooked on cigarettes at Taru Jurug zoo by mimicking the behavior of visitors. Centre for Orangutan Protectio

They say smoking harms you and those around you and, apparently, this applies even if you're in the company of an orangutan.

Tori, a 15-year-old orangutan, has developed a serious smoking habit after puffing away for a decade in an Indonesian zoo and zookeepers are about to force her to quit the addiction by making her go cold turkey.

The teenage primate developed the habit 10 years ago after she learned to smoke by imitating zoo visitors who would throw their lit cigarette butts into her enclosure at Satwa Taru Jurug zoo so that they can watch and take pictures of her puffing away and flicking ashes to the ground.

The primate would previously mimic human behavior and hold cigarettes casually between her fingers while taking long drags and blowing gusts of smoke out her nostrils to the delight of the zoo visitors.

Activists say that the ape holds up two fingers to her mouth to show that she wants a cigarette and becomes angry and throws things if she cannot find one, according to The Guardian.

Her keepers have tried unsuccessfully to lure her away with food and extinguishing the cigarette butts with water.

Zookeepers said on Friday that they plan to move Tori to a different area of the zoo to make her go cold turkey. 

Taru Jurug Zoo director Lili Krisdianto said that the move was made to protect four endangered orangutans at the 35-acre zoo in the Central Java town of Solo, according to the Associated Press.

Hardi Baktiantoro of the Borneo-based Center for Orangutan Protection (COP), an organization that is helping to coordinate the intervention, said that results from the primate's medical test are expected Saturday to determine how much Tori's nicotine addiction has affected her health, according to AP.

Keepers at the zoo plan to move the Tori and her partner to a small island on the premises by August and they hope the trees, rope swings and views over the facility will make the cigarette-addicted primate forget about her nicotine fix.

The zoo will also send extra volunteers to guard the cage and will install mesh netting around her enclosure to prevent visitors from throwing in their lit cigarette butts.

Tori may be Indonesia's most famous smoking orangutan, but Baktiantoro said that she is not the only one. Tori's parents were also smokers and many more of the country's zoo-based orangutans are believed to be hooked to the habit.

"It is very common in Indonesian zoos for people to throw cigarettes or food [at animals] even though there are signs to not feed or give cigarettes," Baktiantoro said, according to The Guardian. "It happens all the time. [In Tori's case], people will throw cigarettes in, watch her smoke, start laughing and take pictures."

However, Tori's partner, Didik, who is new to the zoo, has not yet picked up the habit, preferring instead to stamp out lit butts whenever they are thrown into the cage he and Tori share.

Even so, activists worry that Didik could soon succumb to the habit because more than 60 percent of Indonesian men over the age of 20 are smokers and keepers have a hard time preventing visitors from smoking at the zoo.

Many Indonesian zoos have come under scrutiny following animal deaths, including a 30-year-old giraffe that died in the Surabaya Zoo in March with a 40-pound ball of plastic in its stomach after years of eating litter thrown into its enclosure by visitors, according to the Associated Press.

Loading...