Animals in captivity are often made to do some pretty ridiculous things. We’ve seen dolphins forced to jump through fire hoops on command. We’ve seen elephants swimming in pools of water, simply because zoo staff thought that would make up for keeping them in isolation. And recently, we were made aware of a chimpanzee that currently resides in a North Korean zoo and smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. You heard that right. A chimp … smoking … a pack of cigarettes … every day.

While there are definitely a myriad of factors that would drive any captive animal to engage in a stress relief practice like smoking, nineteen-year-old Azalea does not smoke by choice. Nope, she was trained to do this. And by “this” we mean, how to use a lighter, puff smoke, and oh yeah, touch her nose, bow, and do a little dance right after. How darling…


This is Azalea. The chimpanzee that zoo employees claim is not actually inhaling the smoke from this cigarette, just puffing on it. 

To say we’re skeptical as to how true that claim is would be an understatement. 

If this isn’t animal abuse, we don’t know what is.



To make matters worse, spectators at North Korea’s Central Zoo in Pyongyang are not all that upset about it. In fact, according to The Guardian, visitors have been having quite a laugh at the smoking chimp, snapping photos for social media and generally having a ball watching the spectacle.

As terribly sad as this whole situation is, we honestly can’t say that we’re all that surprised. To start, this is not the first time animal rights activists and campaigners have had their eyes on this zoo for questionable practices. NK News reported North Korea has stocked the zoo with exotic animals from countries all over the world, with many of the deals raising red flags among animal rights campaigners. The zoo has also been criticized in the past for keeping animals in extremely inadequate conditions and even instigating staged fights.


The situation at this North Korean Zoo just goes to show how animals in captivity are not treated with the respect they deserve and are instead manipulated to act in whichever way will generate more profit. Sadly, it seems that there are currently no steps in place to shut down this ridiculous zoo. So, at the moment, all we can do is hope that the media coverage on this ludicrous act will inspire activists to push forward and do everything they can to end this abuse. We’re fighting for you, Azalea!

All image source: Wong Maye-E/AP Photo