Manila, ID -14 Feb. 2009- Staff. Indonesian Federal Police who raided a private zoo on charges related to animal neglect and abuse this week revealed a surprising new wrinkle in the case. In addition to unusually small cages and meager rations, zoo keepers had addicted many animals to nicotine to make them easier to control.
When police arrived on the scene to serve a search warrant to investigate visitor reports of substandard conditions, they weren’t immediately shocked to find that the grounds were littered with thousands of discarded cigarettes.
When a small group of officers took a break to light up, however, they were caught off guard by a small herd of antelope who jumped over their containment fence to eat the cigarettes right out of the officers’ mouths. As they made their way through the compound, they found that nearly all animals, even the fish in the ponds, would approach them eagerly for a piece of tobacco.
Zoo workers, when questioned, explained that they had mixed tobacco into all the feed in order to have an “insurance policy” against unruly animals. They cited several cases where they had neutralized antelope stampedes and other would be escapes by mollifying the beasts with cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.
Similarly, animals who did manage to escape would wander back to the zoo after a matter of hours to seek more nicotine. All zoo workers were arrested on animal abuse charges and are awaiting trial. Animals at the facility were relocated or released, but it’s unclear how their long exposure to tobacco affected them.