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Chain-smoking chimp kicks the habit after 16 years
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-05 07:16

Anti-smoking advocates, rejoice.

Ai Ai, a 26-year-old female chimpanzee, used to throw a fit when she couldn't get a cigarette from her zookeepers in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

No more. With the help of the staff at Qinling Safari Park, she is no longer lighting up.

It took a month of painstaking efforts to get Mama Chimp to give up the fags after 16 years. When her first husband, Jian Jian, died in 1989, Ai Ai refused to eat and drink. She picked up butts of cigarettes left by visitors and imitated human beings smoking.

Somewhere along the line, a zookeeper began lighting the butts for her, and then she began begging for whole cigarettes - loudly.

Her second husband, Da Hu, came from Japan, and they married in 1990. Ai Ai once quit smoking voluntarily when she gave birth to their two children.

But when one of her two children died young and the other moved to a zoo in Northeast China's Liaoning Province to be "married" in the mid-1990s, her craving became stronger.

Things became worse when Da Hu passed away in 1997. To dispel her loneliness, Ai Ai relied much more heavily on cigarettes.

She was up to eight to 10 cigarettes a day before the zoo's management, concerned about her health, decided to help her quit in late August.

Zookeepers tried several ways to divert the chimp's attention from cigarettes: a walk after breakfast, a music session after lunch, and a gym workout after dinner.

"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 zoo employee said.

They say Ai Ai's been clean for more than four weeks now. And as is the case with people, other habits have replaced smoking. "She has fried dishes and dumplings at every meal, alongside her usual diet of milk, banana and rice," said one zookeeper. "I also put earphones on her so that she can enjoy some pop music from my Walkman."

She still feels lonely at times, but the zoo is trying to help that by searching across the nation for a new spouse .

China Daily - Xinhua

(China Daily 10/05/2005 page1)

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