Smoking orangutans forced to kick habit
Two orangutans i Indonesia at Taru Jurug Zoo, Surakarta, Central Java, have been forced to give up smoking after being relocated to an isolated area within the zoo.
According to the zoo’s president director Lilik Kristianto, the orangutans — Tori, 13, and Didik, 23 — were relocated to an island in the zoo’s man-made lake on Saturday.
“At first they looked anxious and drained, but after two days they looked better and have started to play in the trees on the 300-square-meter area,” Lilik said.
He added that after supervising the orangutans, it was concluded that they smoked only when people gave them cigarettes. “They are not yet addicted to smoking,” he said.
The two orangutans’ case was revealed after a local TV news program showed footage of orangutans at the zoo lighting one cigarette stub from another, like a chain-smoker.
Tori, who has resided at the zoo since a baby, was encouraged to smoke by visitors who threw lit cigarettes into the apes’ enclosure on a daily basis.
“We have supervised the visitors, but how can we control and warn them every time?” Lilik said.
On July 3, the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) from the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) took blood samples of Tori and Didik.
“We should focus on disciplining visitors. We have put up signs prohibiting visitors from throwing cigarettes into the apes’ enclosure, but they keep doing it when nobody is looking. They think smoking orangutans are funny, hence they do it over and over again without knowing that the outcome could be fatal,” COP conservation program coordinator Daniek Hendarto said.
He added that isolating Tori and Didik could be a permanent solution to keep them away from further harm.
The institution also took blood samples from two confiscated orangutans, Doni, 20, and Yetti, 15, who are temporarily resident in the zoo.
“Based on the blood tests of the four orangutans, they have no hepatitis or tuberculosis. However, Tori and Didik should be isolated immediately to stop their smoking habit,” said Daniek.
He said that Tori started smoking when he was 10. Tori’s father, named Tomi, also liked smoking and died from the habit.
Daniek admitted to fears that the isolation would lead to problems for Tori since he was raised in a cage and had never lived in the wild.
“We thought that it would take around seven to 10 days for him to adapt, but he was seen climbing the highest tree to get red ants eggs only one day after we moved him,” said Daniek, adding that Didik adapted easily to his new environment since he once lived in the wild.
The cage of Tori and Didik will now be inhabited by Doni and Yetti, who could be moved to the area within a week.
“We will eventually relocate Doni and Yetti to an island right next to the island where Tori and Didik are now to prevent them from smoking,” said Daniek. So far, both Doni and Yetti are not into smoking and throw away cigarettes visitors toss into their cage.
Daniek said that he could not put the four orangutans in the same place as they might be a “war” between them.