This Chain-Smoking Chimpanzee Is A North Korean Zoo's Newest Sensation

Meet Azalea, the smoking chimpanzee, who lives in Pyongyang. Though it’s unclear how long she’s been smoking, she reportedly puffs a pack a day.

A recently-reopened zoo in the capital of North Korea is raising concern as it now features a primate named “Dallae,” or Azalea in English, who smokes cigarettes.

Pyongyang Central Zoo is attracting thousands of daily visitors who appear to be in awe of the smoking chimpanzee, The Guardian reported. Those watching Azalea as she rapidly puffs cigarettes found the spectacle to be hilarious.

Officials at the zoo claim that although the 19-year-old chimp smokes a pack a day, she, like Bill Clinton, “does not inhale.” Guests at the zoo can watch Azalea light her own cigarettes, touch her nose, bow thank you, and perform a simple, choreographed dance routine.

The chain-smoking stunt, however, is drawing international criticism from those who are concerned about the animal’s health and well-being, namely animal rights group PETA, TIME reported Wednesday.

The Central Zoo, which was closed in 2014 for renovations, is known to have put its animals through “woefully inadequate” living environments in the past, according to BBC News.  

Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President, said, “How cruel to willfully addict a chimpanzee to tobacco for human amusement.”

In a statement issued to TIME, Newkirk added that, “Gradually, zoos are learning that spectacles like chimpanzee tea parties, elephant rides, and photo ops with tiger cubs are inappropriate and exploitative, with the big question now being, why are we keeping wild animals behind bars at all?”

Zoos will always draw the ire of some people for keeping animals in captivity and training them to perform tricks, but subjecting a chimpanzee to carcinogenic substances appears to be crossing the line. It’s hard to believe that Azalea can actually avoid inhaling cigarette smoke, considering how frequently she lights up. 

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Stringer

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