Chain-Smoking Chimp Entertains Zoo Visitors in North Korea

Azalea has a pack-a-day smoking habit. That would be bad enough for a human, but Azalea happens to be a 19-year-old chimpanzee who’s the most popular attraction at the Korea Central Zoo in Pyongyang, which is the national zoo of North Korea.

A zookeeper provides Azalea (“Dallae” in Korean) with a lighter, and to the delight of visitors, the chimp can light up her own smokes, which are given to her by the zoo and by visitors who toss them into her enclosure. No lighter, no problem — Azalea can light up from a lit cigarette.

“Her trainer seemed to be encouraging the smoking and prompted her to touch her nose, bow thank you and do a simple dance,” the Guardian reports.

According to AP photographer Wong Maye-E, who took the pictures of Azalea that have gone viral, the trainer asked an audience member for a cigarette and lighter.

“He threw the cigarette into the exhibit and after she went to pick it up, he made her gesture with two hands out as he threw a lighter to her,” Wong told TIME. “She then lit her cigarette, and then threw the lighter back towards the keeper, who was standing among the visitors still. It seemed to be a routine and part of the entertainment factor. It was part of her ‘song and dance’ number.”

Thanks to Azalea, the renovated and newly reopened zoo has been attracting thousands of visitors a day. Although the zoo was modernized, its treatment of captive animals belongs back in the dark ages.

In other areas of the zoo, a monkey slam-dunks basketballs and doves land on a woman as she skates on a stage. Besides Azalea, another popular attraction is the Dog Pavilion, where visitors can look at various breeds of dogs spending their lives in cages. Residents of Pyongyang aren’t allowed to keep dogs as pets, because they’re considered unclean.

The renovation was requested by North Korea’s notorious leader, Kim Jong-un, in his quest to create leisure centers for humans around Pyongyang. The zoo was built in 1959 by order of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

‘Woefully Inadequate Compounds’

Animal welfare advocates around the world are justifiably horrified by the zoo. This is not the first time the Korea Central Zoo has been accused of animal cruelty. The Lonely Planet guide for North Korea notes that the zoo is “a depressing and uninspiring place, best avoided” and it keeps animals in “woefully inadequate compounds.”

In the 1990s, scenes from the gruesome video “Fighting Animals,” which shows animals — including endangered species — attacking or preparing to attack each other, were filmed at the zoo.

“The film’s producers would have needed access to rare and valuable animals, and the only place in the country that holds them is the Central Zoo in Pyongyang,” Asia Times reported in 2006. “Also, they would need the cooperation of the zookeepers to match up the different animals in shared cages and goad them enough to maul one another.”

Does Azalea Inhale?

If zookeepers were willing to let animals fight to their deaths, they probably see nothing harmful about allowing a chimpanzee to smoke cigarettes. After all, officials said, Azalea doesn’t inhale.

Cigarette smoking is as addictive and unhealthy for chimpanzees as it is for humans, primatologist Frans B.M. de Waal told the Huffington Post. And, yes, Azalea probably is inhaling.

Please join more than 60,000 Care2 members who want the Korea Central Zoo to stop allowing Azalea to smoke by signing and sharing this petition.

Photo credit: YouTube

167 comments

Robert N.
Rob Chloe Sam N1 years ago

Close down the zoo and send the animals to a sanctuary.

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Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Evil

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

And the people in the crowd were laughing. What disgusting cretins.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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STEFANIE RACKS
STEFANIE RACKS2 years ago

THANKS FOR CARING AND SHARING!

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STEFANIE RACKS
STEFANIE RACKS2 years ago

THIS WORLD IS SO EVIL IT MAKES YOU SO SAD FOR ALL LIVES ANIMALS AND HUMANS!

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Joanna M.
Joanna M2 years ago

Tell lawmakers it's time for a national animal abuse registry!
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/449/889/340/create-animal-abuse-registries-in-all-50-u.s.-states/

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Deborah T.
Deborah T2 years ago

Since when has this is acceptable as entertainment? Decent people everywhere will be appalled.

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Latonya W.
Latonya W2 years ago

Humans are the WORST...

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adi Ra
adi Ra2 years ago

People are so stupid!

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