Tori, a smoking orangutan at Solo’s Taru Jurug Zoo, will soon be forced to kick the habit.
The Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) and zoo management are planning to move her, along with her partner, to a small island in the middle of the Central Java zoo’s lake to keep her away from zoo visitors who are enabling the ape by tossing cigarettes into her cage.
“We have proposed that the zoo place her on the island, in the middle of the lake, to keep her away from visitors,” Daniek Hendarto, coordinator of COP, told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.
Daniek said Tori learned how to smoke by imitating visitors taking puffs near her cage. Her parents were also smokers.
“Orangutans and humans have 97 percent [genetic] similarity, so Tori imitated human behavior,” he said.
At first, Tori smoked the lit cigarette butts thrown into her cage by visitors. Now, if she needs a nicotine fix, she puts up two fingers to signal her craving. If the visitors refuse, her irritation takes the form of throwing things within reach at those who would deny her.
Interestingly, Tori’s partner Didik, who is a newcomer to the zoo, refuses to smoke. When visitors throw lit cigarettes to him, he stamps them out.
Zoo management finally decided to cooperate with COP to handle four orangutans at the zoo, including tackling Tori’s smoking habit.
Though they haven’t yet resorted to patches or gum, zookeepers have tried to stop Tori from smoking. Because she usually does not finish a cigarette without first taking a break for playing, zoo employees will extinguish the cigarette by dousing it with water. But the visitors continue to feed the addiction.
“Animal keepers have warned the visitors several times, but they keep on giving cigarettes, as the animal keepers are not watching them all the time,” Daniek said.
Tori and Didik are presently kept in an open cage surrounded by a low concrete wall. Daniek worries that if something is not done, Didik will join his partner in succumbing to nicotine addiction.
While the plan to move them to the island is under discussion, COP has developed a strategy and trained the zookeepers in methods of diverting Tori’s attention.
“We use food enrichment games,” Daniek said. “We put food inside the bamboo, or hide it under leaves or in a box, so they would be busy thinking of how to get the food and forget smoking.”
The team hopes the new environs will help ease any nicotine withdrawal symptoms Tori might experience. Daniek said the island includes numerous trees that the couple will love spending their time among.
“We will also provide them with a swinging rope,” he said. “They will be happy if, before bedtime, they can spend sometime climbing the highest tree to look around.”