South Africa: Smoking chimp dies – of old age

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The Independent Online

A chimpanzee which got hooked on smoking by visitors offering it cigarettes has died at a South African zoo at the relatively advanced age of 52, officials said yesterday. "He appears to have died of old age," said Qondile Khedama, a municipal spokesman.

A post-mortem examination will be conducted to determine the exact cause of the chimpanzee's death.

"Charlie the smoking chimp" used to put two fingers to his mouth to mimic smoking and he reached out with his other hand to cadge cigarette butts from visitors at Bloemfontein Zoo.

But when videos of him puffing away circulated globally a few years ago, zoo officials moved to cut off his supply of nicotine. The nickname stuck even though the cigarette habit faded.

The life expectancy for non-captive chimps is about 15 years and only 7 per cent of wild chimpanzees live past 40, a Harvard University report published in 2007 said.