Charlie the smoking chimpanzee dies aged 52

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Charlie, a Chimpanzee in a South African zoo who became addicted to cigarettes, has died at the age of 52, exceeding the average lifespan of a captive chimpanzee by twelve years. After a video of Charlie puffing on cigarettes discarded by visitors appeared on the Internet, the animal and the zoo gained international attention and some visitors threw him additional cigarettes.

According to his keepers, Charlie was "an occasional smoker" and even tried to hide his habit from his keepers, who were trying to get him to quit by giving him medical care and a special diet. A recent study found that only seven percent of chimpanzees in captivity live beyond forty years of age. It is estimated that 500,000 people die due to smoking-related diseases every year in the United States alone.

It is believed that Charlie learned to smoke during his time in a US circus before being transferred to the zoo. Zookeepers say that the animal died of old age but an autopsy has yet to confirm this. The zoo suggested that Charlie's body could be stuffed and put on display.