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Smoking Indonesian orangutan forced to quit

This file photo taken on September 21, 2011 shows a young male orangutan named Tori puffing a cigarette from its enclosure at the Taro Jurug Zoo in Solo, Java island. (AFP PHOTO / FILES / ANWAR MUSTAFA)

JAKARTA: An orangutan who became the star attraction of an Indonesian zoo for her penchant for puffing on cigarettes will be forced to quit cold turkey, a conservationist said Saturday.

Visitors began throwing lit cigarettes into the cage of 15-year-old Tori when it was five, and the female orangutan had developed an addiction over the years, Center for Orangutan Protection coordinator Daniek Hendarto said.

"We are working with the zoo's management to try and move her to an island, in a big lake in the middle of the zoo, away from the other orangutans and where visitors can't toss her anymore cigarettes," Hendarto told AFP.

He said Tori's parents had also been smokers, adding that orangutans easily mimic human behavior, including smoking.

News of the smoking orangutan spread quickly 10 years ago, attracting more visitors to the Taru Jurug Zoo in the central Javanese city of Solo, Hendarto said.

"Until we get approval from the zoo to move her, a guard has been placed outside her cage to make sure she doesn't smoke and she is undergoing therapy. She will have to go cold turkey," he said.

Indonesian zoos have drawn international criticism in recent years for their poor treatment of animals. In March, a giraffe at a zoo in eastern Java was found dead with a 20-kilogram (44-pound) beachball-size lump of plastic in its stomach from visitors' food wrappers thrown into its pen.

Indonesia is also one the world's last bastions of big tobacco, where few restrictions are placed on marketing and smoking rates have risen six-fold over the last 40 years, according to the World Health Organization.

Several cases of children as young as two with smoking addictions have been reported.

 

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