Zoo officials at Taman Satwa Taru Jurug in Central Java are sending Tori the smoking orangutan to rehab so she can try to kick the habit.
The primate has been getting her nicotine fix from zoo visitors who throw lit cigarettes into her cage. The Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) told the Jakarta Globe "Orangutans and humans have 97% similarity, so Tori imitated human behavior." Daniek Hendanto adds that Tori began imitating zoo visitors who smoked as well as her parents that had picked up the habit.
Zoo officials decided to send Tori and her mate Didik to a small remote island at the zoo to keep her away from her enablers. Hendanto says "we have proposed that the zoo place her on the island in the middle of the lake to keep her away from visitors." Didik refuses to smoke and in fact when visitors throw cigarettes at him he stamps them out. They were supposed to be moved at the end of May but the zoo is still working to prepare their new home.
No one is quite sure how she's going to react but it's not likely she will be very happy about it. Now when she needs a nicotine fix she simply puts up two fingers to signal she wants a smoke and if anyone refuses she throws whatever she can find at them.
So far the zoo hasn't tried any stop smoking aids to help Tori kick the habit, like nicotine gum or the patch but say she doesn't smoke the whole thing anyway, she usually stops to play and zoo workers throw water on the butt to put it out. They do try to get her mind off her bad habit by hiding her food in a box or under some leaves so she is too preoccupied to continue to puff. They are hoping her new home, complete with swinging ropes, will help her to give up smoking.
COP is also calling on the zoo to beef up security to stop people from throwing cigarettes and food into animals cages.
There are currently only about 55,000 of the red apes left in the wild due to deforestation and poaching and there are fears that they could be extinct within 10 years.
If you want to help the Orangutans in Indonesia you can visit the COP website.