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Friday, April 15, 2005 

Smoking Chimp

Chimpanzee told to stop smoking

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African zoo is trying to persuade its star chimpanzee to kick a bad smoking habit.

Charlie, a grown male chimp and the Bloemfontein Zoo, has been picking up cigarettes thrown to him by visitors and smoking them -- a habit he probably picked up by observing humans, zoo officials told the SAPA news agency on Thursday.

"Baby chimps pick up habits by mimicking adults and we think he started mimicking smokers at his enclosure which probably led to smokers throwing him cigarettes," spokesman Daryl Barnes told SAPA.

Barnes said Charlie was already showing the signs of a true nicotine addict.

"He even acts like a naughty schoolboy by hiding the cigarette when staff approach the area," Barnes said, adding that the zoo was determined to help him quit.

Barnes said the most important thing was that people stop providing Charlie with cigarettes or any other treats, noting the chimp already had three bad teeth because of all the cans of sweet soft drinks that people throw at him.

Charlie is not the only smoking chimpanzee. A zoo in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou reported last year that one of its chimps had taken up smoking and was desperately cadging cigarette butts off visitors.

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