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    Smoking chimp goes to rehab

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    ODN

    by ODN

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    A chimpanzee hooked on smoking has been given a second chance at a healthier life in a Brazilian sanctuary, after animal rights workers rescued him from a zoo in Lebanon.


    The 12-year-old Omega was welcomed last week to a 108,000-square-foot ranch in the southern state of Parana - a home much more spacious than the cage where he spent the past eight years.


    Members of the non-governmental organization Animals Lebanon found him at a 430-square-foot cage puffing on cigarettes to entertain visitors at a zoo in Ansar.


    Activists negotiated the chimp's release from the now defunct zoo and transferred him to a sanctuary in the capital Curitiba, where 23 other chimps and dozens of animals, including monkeys, deers, flamingos and several birds already live.


    Omega, who weighs around 132 pounds, developed a nicotine addiction after picking up cigarettes apparently thrown by visitors. In his early years, he also served water pipes and entertained customers at a restaurant.


    Sanctuary founder Anita Starostik said Omega was adapting well and was enjoying a healthy diet. Oatmeal and fresh fruits and vegetables harvested in the sanctuary are the main items in Omega's menu.


    He is being quarantined in a house while veterinarians test him for several diseases and give him treatments for his addiction and his teeth, which have turned yellow and accumulated tartar due to years of smoking. Veterinarian Paulo Diniz Basteane said Omega will no longer be given any cigarettes.


    Omega's integration with other chimps will be carried out slowly, since he has never interacted with fellow chimps before. Once ready, he will be taken to a large area mimicking his natural environment and equipped with toys such as trampolines.