Animal Rights

Shirley the Smoking Orangutan Ordered to Kick the Habit

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

We know how hard it is for human beings to quit smoking, but we will soon find out if primates have an easier time – an orangutan which picked up the habit is being forced to kick the habit cold turkey.

The Associated Press reports that government officials in Malaysia last week seized several animals from a state-run zoo after getting reports that they were living in poor conditions.

One of the animals was Shirley, an orangutan who smokes cigarettes. It’s not clear when she started smoking, but her habit was fed by zoo visitors who would throw lit cigarettes into her cage.

"I would say she is not addicted ... but she might have formed a habit after mimicking human beings who were smoking around her," Melaka Zoo Director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed said.

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He said Shirley is not being given cigarettes in her new home because “smoking is not normal behavior for orangutans.”

So far Shirley seems to be doing fine – she has an appetite for food and is not showing any signs of nicotine withdrawal such as depression or other illnesses.

But Shirley should not get too comfortable; she is expected to be transferred to a Malaysian wildlife sanctuary in Borneo in a few weeks.

Shirley’s case is not an isolated one -- there have been past cases of chimpanzees smoking in zoos, courtesy of visitors carelessly tossing their cigarettes into cages.