While animal cruelty is still, sadly, all around us, we don’t expect to find it in a casino. And yet, here is the story of John, a former mascot at Space – one of Russia’s leading casinos- who was forced to become a nicotine and alcohol-addicted chimp for customers’ “entertainment”.
But it’s not all bad news for John, who has come to a happier place after being sent off to rehab so he could kick his addictions and live a more tranquil life.
Chimp Became Mascot for Gamblers
John – a chimpanzee – picked up his unhealthy vices while socializing at the Space casino with celebrities and gamblers throughout his career, during which time he was the poster boy for the casino, and often photographed alongside Soviet actors such as Leonid Bronevoy.
Eventually, in July 2009, employing chimps in such roles thankfully became outlawed in Russia, and John was left jobless, yet still addicted to both nicotine and alcohol as a result of the sideshow-style mascot role in which he had been placed for so long.
Moved to a Safari Park
It was then that the owners of the casino searched high and low for the perfect place for John, eventually finding the addicted chimpanzee a home at Gekendzhik Safari Park, located in South West Russia, in the hope that the keepers could help him kick his habits.
However, in a cruel twist of fate, visitors at the safari park continued to throw lit cigarettes into John’s enclosure, encouraging him to continue to smoke. And as anyone who has tried to kick the habit will know, such a temptation would be impossible to resist.
He also reportedly began stealing pints of beer from visitors, further fueling his ongoing addiction to alcohol as well.
“We saw this and tried to prevent possible ‘gifts’ but he still managed to drink and smoke,” explained deputy director at the Gekendzhik Safari Park, Peter Skorsky.
Eventually, the keepers at the safari park were forced to send John to the zoo’s own form of rehab, which is comprised of a specially built glass enclosure, at which point his diet was also changed radically.
New exercise equipment was also brought in to help John begin to live the more athletic, active life which is associated with normal chimpanzees.
“We have developed for him a special diet of fresh fruit and established sports equipment,” said Skorsky. “Now he is cheerful and full of energy and I think (he) was completely rehabbed, getting rid of bad habits.”
Now, thanks to the efforts of the keepers at the safari park, John is well is on his way to recovery and leads a much more healthy and active lifestyle.
But John is certainly not the first chimpanzee to have developed an addiction to such substances as alcohol or nicotine, as Charlie, a chimpanzee at Bloemfontein Zoo in South Africa, became famous for his habit of indulging in the odd cigarette.
Keepers at the South African zoo said that Charlie developed the addiction when visitors kept handing him cigarettes from outside of his enclosure. However, despite his unhealthy vice, he reportedly outlived the average captive chimpanzee by about ten years.