July 7, 2012
How Do You Help An Orangutan Quit Smoking?
HOLY SMOKING MONKEYS!
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Anyone who has tried to kick the cigarette habit knows that it can be incredibly difficult. Adding to the difficulty and frustration are all the little cliches and tips offered by well-meaning co-workers, family and friends.
“Once you get past the third day, you´re in the clear,” say some, while others hold that it takes one week to completely get over the hardest hurdle.
Others will suggest taking up a new habit, such as chewing gum or chewing on toothpicks imbued with tea tree oil. I don´t recommend this tactic, however. Splinters hurt even more when lodged in your gums and lips.
There´s also the eternal debate between quitting cold-turkey and slowly weaning yourself from the nicotine habit. Is it better to stamp out your last cigarette with a self-righteous punctuation, claiming to never again put a smoke to your lips, or is it more prudent to step down from 1 pack a day to a half a day? To quote a popular candy commercial, The world may never know.
As hard as it is for a human to quit smoking, it must be even harder for an orangutan to kick the habit.
For over a decade, Tori the Indonesian orangutan has been bumming cigarettes from passersby, enjoying the kind of smooth satisfaction a primate can only find in taking a long, slow draw from a ciggy. Indonesia, as it turns out, is a very “smoker-friendly” kind of country. In fact, nearly 70% of Indonesian men over 20 are smokers.
One day, nearly 10 years ago, one of these smokers haplessly tossed a lit cigarette into Tori´s cage. The rest, as they say, is smoky history.
Since it´s pretty entertaining to watch a monkey smoke, this has become a sort of trick Tori performs for her guests. She´ll hold up two fingers, indicating that she wants to share a smoke with her friends. Someone will light one up and toss it in her cage. She´ll then run over, pick it up, and take a deep draw, blowing the smoke out of her nostrils. The Indonesians just love it.
"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," says Hardi Baktiantoro for the Centre of Orangutan Protection (COP). “It happens all the time. [In Tori's case], people will throw cigarettes in, watch her smoke, start laughing and take pictures,” he told the Guardian.
It´s always fun and daring at first, of course. You meet a new friend, you decide to do something daring and reckless, and you have a smoke or two at the bar, more as a decadence than anything. Then one day you realize you´re hooked. It´s a scary time.
Now, some activists have decided it´s time for Tori to give up her habit and, with the help of the COP, she´ll go Cold Turkey. They´ll be moving her to another part of the zoo in a mesh-covered cage to prevent visitors from throwing their butts Tori´s way. It´s likely Tori won´t take too kindly to this move however, as she already becomes quite agitated when people don´t throw her their smokes when she asks. The COP will also start to watch Tori´s health, starting with a test on Saturday to measure how much 10-years worth of smoking have affected Tori´s health.
Indonesia´s Zoos aren´t bastions of animal health, apparently, as it was reported 2 years ago that 25 animals were dying prematurely every month. Just last March, a giraffe died after it ate a nearly 40 pound ball of plastic which was thrown into its pen by a visitor.
While any death of an animal is terrible, it´s worth pointing out that the giraffe did not die from smoking.