Azalea the chimp is a big attraction at Pyongyang, North Korea’s Central Zoo.
Unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons. Azalea, who’s 19, has learned how to smoke cigarettes. She can even light them herself, either with a lighter or with the butt of another one, chain-smoker style. Visitors to the zoo laugh and clap at this and Azalea’s other array of tricks, which include bowing and dancing.
The zoo officials claim that the chimp doesn’t inhale, but primatologist Frans B.M. de Waal told the Huffington Post that he doubts that’s actually the case, “in the same way that I would doubt a human who smokes a lot but says he never inhales, like Bill Clinton.”
Central Zoo doesn’t have the best track record to go on, either: A 2006 report alleged bootleg videos out of North Korea show endangered animals fighting, and the only place some of the species showcased in the videos are housed are in the zoo.
Central Zoo is run by the state, and was built in 1959 though it underwent considerable renovations and reopened this July with a new museum exhibit. Since then, it’s become a hot spot in the capital, with thousands of visitors each day.
Obviously, cigarette smoking is as harmful to primates as it is to humans. One report mentions that Pyongyang Zoo started off with only 50 badgers. Maybe they should have left it at that.