INDONESIA, Jakarta (The Blaze/AP) -- Orangutans are often said to be similar human beings in their actions. New reports appear to indicate that these mammals enjoy smoking cigarettes as much as some people do.
Over the years, critics have taken aim at Southeast Asian zoos and their willingness to allow the animals to use and abuse tobacco. One wildlife activist is claiming that zoo officials in Indonesia are taking no steps to stop orangutans from smoking cigarettes.
Visitors to the Taru Jurug Zoo in Solo, a city on Java island, have been giving cigarettes to the endangered red apes for years. One young male was captured on video shortly before his death in 2009 smoking with his 5-year-old son.
Hardi Baktiantoro, director of the Center for Orangutan Protection, said Friday the youngster can still be seen puffing away at the zoo today as keepers look on.
While some may find such a prospect entertaining in theory, one shouldn't underestimate the health risks involved in the use of the drug among these animals. Plus, many would contend that distributing cigarettes constitutes a form of animal abuse.
In Malaysia, the situation has been handled much differently. According to the Associated Press, wildlife officials are saying that a captive orangutan often spotted smoking cigarettes given to her by zoo visitors is being forced to kick the habit.
Government authorities seized the adult ape named Shirley from a state-run zoo in Malaysia's southern Johor state last week after she and several other animals there were deemed to be living in poor conditions.
Shirley is now being quarantined at another zoo in a neighboring state and is expected to be sent to a Malaysian wildlife center on Borneo island within weeks.
Melaka Zoo Director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed said Shirley is not being provided with any more cigarettes because "smoking is not normal behavior for orangutans." Below, watch the orangutang puffing away:
"I would say she is not addicted ... but she might have formed a habit after mimicking human beings who were smoking around her," Ahmad told The Associated Press.
Shirley was so far displaying a regular appetite for food and no obvious signs of depression or illness, Ahmad said. Results from her blood tests and other detailed health examinations were not yet available.
Nature Alert, a British-based activist group, wrote to Malaysian officials about Shirley earlier this year, saying conservationists who visited the Johor zoo often saw people throwing lit cigarettes to her in a pit-like enclosure.
The group said Shirley seemed to suffer severe mood swings, sometimes looking drowsy and on other occasions appearing "very agitated" without a cigarette.
Authorities last week also reportedly seized a tiger and a baby elephant that was kept chained at the Johor zoo.
It is not clear when Shirley started smoking. Officials have estimated she is around 20 years old. Orangutans, which are native to rainforests in Borneo and Indonesia's Sumatra island, can live up to about 60 years in captivity.
Other countries such as South Africa and Russia have also reported cases of primates learning to smoke after zoo visitors ignored warnings and tossed cigarettes into the cages of chimpanzees. Below, we'll leave you with footage of an orangutang who, when thrown a lit cigarette, apparently said "no":