Monday, October 03, 2005

Chain-smoking chimp kicks the habit

A chimpanzee in a Chinese zoo has successfully kicked a 16-year smoking habit after becoming hooked when two spouses died and her daughter left, state press said on Monday.

Ai Ai, a 27-year-old chimp at the Qinling Safari Park in northern China's Shaanxi province, ended her tobacco dependency when zoo keepers put her on a strict regime that included walking, music therapy and exercise sessions, Xinhua news agency said.

"In the first few days, she squealed for cigarettes every now and then, but as her life became more colourful, she gradually forgot about them altogether," one zookeeper was quoted as saying.

"She's served fried dishes and dumplings at every meal, alongside her usual diet of milk, banana and rice," he said, "I also put earphones on her so that she could enjoy some pop music from my Walkman."

According to the report, Ai Ai became a smoker in 1989, shortly after her first spouse died.

She started demanding more and more cigarettes after her second spouse died in 1997 and her daughter departed to another zoo, it said.

The report did not say why zookeepers started giving the animal cigarettes, or whether they faced punishment.

China is the world's largest cigarette consumer, with education about the dangers of tobacco not widely known. China has lax laws protecting the rights of animals.

Story here.

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