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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Zookeepers Have Sent a Chimpanzee to Rehab in Russia

The word "addiction", is a word that once could only be applied to human beings. The thought of an animal becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol is something hard to believe and is almost comedic. Unfortunately, those animals that are not far down the evolutionary ladder from humans are just as susceptible to developing habits and addictions. Chimpanzees have commonly been used for drug experiments over the years. In one experiment, a chimpanzee was taught to hit a lever in his cage, when hit, a dose of cocaine would be administered. The scientists would gradually change the amount of times the chimp would have to hit the lever to get a single dose. The study was finally canceled when the chimpanzee was witnessed hitting the lever 12,000 times to get one dose of cocaine. Other experiments have been done that allowed the animal a choice between a lever for water and a lever for a morphine solution, as you might guess, the lever for water saw little activity. It's pretty clear that brain chemistry in animals is not too dissimilar from human beings. The main difference between a chimpanzee becoming an addict and human beings, is a matter of perception; no one would ever say that an animal that has become addicted to a substance is : attempting to be different, a rebel, a criminal, from a bad family or the product of socioeconomic disasters. Therein lays the key point about addiction that it doesn't matter where you are from or what you have been through; addiction makes no exceptions for the person you are, it is a disease that countless people are born with.

The Moscow Times recently reported that zookeepers have sent a chimpanzee to rehab in Russia after the chimp named Zhora began begging visitors for booze and cigarettes. Zhora, picked up smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol while performing in the circus. Zhora has been at the whim of visitors to the zoo who find it funny to see her smoke cigarettes and stumble around drunk inside the cage. I fail to see the humor in all this, when an animal is an addict it's "funny", yet, when a human is an addict it is pathetic. Nevertheless, wild animals in captivity are subject to whatever we put them through, if you give a substance to an animal like alcohol repeatedly, dependency is bound to develop.

Now, Zhora is in treatment fighting off the demons that the audience gave her with a smile on their faces - hilarious, right? Animals have little business in captivity to begin with, they have enough environmental stress day to day inside of their cages; to think that humans would work to shorten a life already shortened by giving them drugs. Sad!

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