All Fired Up

There is no doubt that smoking is not a good life-choice for a long and healthy life. Caring politicians, who of course always know what is best for us, are battling to make cigarette packs more and more disagreeable to look at in an effort to discourage us, at the same time as making full use of the tax revenue for their favorite projects.

Where one can smoke is more and more strictly controlled, but whether one gives up smoking or not is still a personal choice, usually. Not so with Shirley from Johor, however. Shirley is 20 years old and is going ‘cold turkey’ in Malacca. She took up the habit when she was somebody’s pet in Sarawak and has been a smoker ever since.

Shirley is an Orangutan and has been living in cruddy conditions, banged up in a second rate zoo in Johor according to the BBC reports (1) where she gets lit cigarettes tossed to her by passing smokers. Clearly, she is unable to go and buy her own. Once she’s finished with rehab, she and her partner, Abu, are off to a nice little place in Sarawak.

So far, she is taking her withdrawal from the habit well. Perhaps she never did really inhale. It could have been that cigars from Sumatra would have been more her ‘cup of tea,’ but we’ll never know now.

She is not the first great ape to be a smoker. Feili at Zengzhou took it up a few years ago when she was 13 years old. She was a chimp who was stuck with a 42 year old partner who left her wanting due to his lack of libido. She started to turn quite nasty until smoking steadied her nerves.

Ai Ai, at 27, took up the weed after her mate died, but gave up after 16 years of puffing away in 2005 and hasn’t smoked since. She was a chimp housed in a safari park in Shaanxi Province of China. She managed to get clean with the help of her minders who kept her busy, gave her lots of exciting foods and, occasionally, let her borrow their old Walkman so she could carry her music with her.

Not all smoking chimps are successful in giving up, though. Charlie from Bloemfontein lived at Mangaung Zoo and smoked till he died last year at the grand old age of 52 (2). That’s about 20% longer than the average life expectancy for a chimp and he was a much-loved character. Not all chimps have Charlie’s je ne sais quoi. The same report reminded us of a Russian chimp that got into trouble for demanding alcohol with his cigarettes early last year. He was packed of protesting to rehab without any discussion.


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