Zoos around the world have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Apparently, this has made some of their animals confused and nervous. In the midst of the pandemic, a video of a monkey smoking a cigarette in a zoo enclosure has surfaced. The animal holds the cancer stick between his fingers like a natural between taking deep drags off the butt, blissfully exhaling smoke from his nose and mouth. Though some animal rights activists were concerned, the zoo’s staff were more sanguine about the chimp’s actions, because they said the chimp “didn’t inhale.” Ah, the old Bill Clinton defense.
Some zookeepers and trainers state that this is not an infrequent occurrence and that monkeys often pick up butts previously discarded by human visitors, some of whom have discarded their lighters, too. Apparently, monkeys are smart enough—or dumb enough—to figure out how to light the cigs as well as smoke them. And then…addiction can set in. Some zoo officials say a few monkeys have been “chain smoking” due to their unease over the coronavirus pandemic. This seems like so much preposterous balderdash for multiple reasons. However, it did get me to thinking. If they are aping the behavior of the humans who (used to) come to see them, things could get ugly. Let’s hope cigarettes aren’t a gateway drug for simians. Hopefully, we won’t soon discover that they’ve been monkeying around with harder drugs, or one day we will visit our favorite exhibit of bonobos or orangutans and see them not just reach for a pack of Marlboros, but pull out a bong, coke spoon, or crack pipe. I fear some will also be drinking straight from a bottle of Old Grand Dad hidden in a small, wrinkled paper bag.
Who among us wishes to see our favorite simian exhibit devolve into a dystopian hell that makes Skid Row look like Park Avenue or the Miracle Mile? On their best days, monkeys are not exactly paragons of virtue—or stability. If they were to be on drugs, they would make Dante’s Inferno or Studio 54 in its heyday look like grandmother’s quilting bee.
So remember, if this crisis/lock-down ever does end, and we are once again “allowed” to visit zoos, be on your best behavior. Present a calming influence. And don’t smoke. After all, monkey see, monkey do.