KUALA LUMPUR - An orangutan that amused visitors to her Malaysian zoo by smoking cigarette butts thrown into her cage is being forced to go cold turkey, a keeper said Monday.
Authorities seized the orangutan, named Shirley, along with a tiger and other animals from a state-run zoo in the southern state of Johor last week after they were found to have been kept in poor conditions.
Shirley, believed to be more than 20 years old, has been transferred to Malacca Zoo where she will be forced to kick the habit, said the institution's director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed.
"When we brought Shirley here, she is just like a normal orangutan... But orangutans are very smart animals. They will follow what people do," he told AFP.
He said "irresponsible visitors" would throw lit cigarette butts into Shirley's cage at the Johor Zoo, which she would pick up and smoke.
Ahmad Azhar said Shirley was expected to stay at the Malacca Zoo for about a month before being transferred to a rehabilitation centre in Sarawak state on Borneo island, where orangutans still live in the wild.
Malaysia has pledged to better protect animals from abuse and illegal trade, which critics say still flourishes in the Southeast Asian country.
Earlier this month, police rescued about 300 cats from a pet-boarding business after its operators left them without adequate food and water and in filthy cages for days.