Visitors began throwing lit cigarettes into the cage of 15-year-old Tori when it was five, and the female orangutan had developed an addiction over the years, Centre for Orangutan Protection coordinator Daniek Hendarto said.
“We are working with the zoo’s management to try and move her to an island, in a big lake in the middle of the zoo, away from the other orangutans and where visitors can’t toss her anymore cigarettes,” Hendarto told AFP.
He said Tori’s parents had also been smokers, adding that orangutans easily mimic human behaviour, including smoking.
News of the smoking orangutan spread quickly 10 years ago, attracting more visitors to the Taru Jurug Zoo in the central Javanese city of Solo, Hendarto said.
“Until we get approval from the zoo to move her, a guard has been placed outside her cage to make sure she doesn’t smoke and she is undergoing therapy. She will have to go cold turkey,” he said.
Indonesian zoos have drawn international criticism in recent years for their poor treatment of animals. In March, a giraffe at a zoo in eastern Java was found dead with a 20-kilogram (44-pound) beachball-size lump of plastic in its stomach from visitors’ food wrappers thrown into its pen.
Indonesia is also one the world’s last bastions of big tobacco, where few restrictions are placed on marketing and smoking rates have risen six-fold over the last 40 years, according to the World Health Organization.
Several cases of children as young as two with smoking addictions have been reported.