Tori, Indonesia’s smoking orangutan, has been relocated to an isolated island in the middle of a lake so she can kick the habit without being tempted by the cigarettes zoo patrons routinely throw into her enclosure, a Taru Jurug Zoo official said on Thursday.
“This will be permanent solution to address the problem, and we will provide a much better facility that is similar to the conditions found in the wild,” said Lilik Kristianto, the director of the zoo in Solo, Central Java.
Tori was moved to the island with Didik, a male orangutan who zoo staff refers to as Tori’s “boyfriend.” The orangutans’ new home is significantly more comfortable than their old concrete cage.
“Tori can climb five big trees on the island. This might be the best orangutan enclosure in Indonesia,” Lilik added enthusiastically.
The 13-year-old orangutan started her habit by imitating the actions of puffing zoogoers. She would pick up discarded, but still lit cigarette butts and smoke the remaining tobacco.
Didik, on the other hand, would walk over and stamp the smoking butts out.
The problem lies not with the animals, Lilik said, but with unruly zoo patrons.
“A common problem for zoos in Indonesia are naughty visitors,” Lilik said. “Although there are sign prohibiting them from giving food or cigarettes to the animals, they keep on doing it. It is not rare that visitors even hurt the animals.”
The zoo decided to move the orangutans after the Center for Orangutan Protection and the Jakarta Animal Aid Network urged zoo staff to a safer habitat.
Other Indonesian zoos should adopt a more modern approach to housing animals, said Daniek Hendarto, program coordinator of Ex Situ Conservation with the Center for Orangutan Protection. Modern zoos have eschewed bars and cages in favor of more natural environments.
“This system enables animals to live better and they are safe from the naughty visitors,” Daniek said. “Healthy and happy animals are a better show than stressful and sick animals.”
He said that after the orangutans are moved to the island, zoo staff will explain to visitors the zoo’s efforts to protect orangutans.