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Chimp Charlie dies at 52 despite smoking habit

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Media captionFootage filmed in April 2001 shows Charlie smoking a cigarette

A chimpanzee famous for smoking cigarettes has died at a South African zoo, aged 52.

Charlie the chimp started smoking when some visitors to Mangaung zoo, in Bloemfontein, threw him lit cigarettes.

Zoo spokesman Qondile Khedama said Charlie had become an institution, entertaining thousands of visitors every year with his antics.

An autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death.

For years, zookeepers had been trying to get the chimp to kick the habit, and they discouraged visitors from giving him cigarettes.

But Mr Khedama said he did not believe the addiction had ended Charlie's life prematurely, as he had lived around 10 years longer than the average chimp.

"He was on serious medications and in and out of the vet," he said.

"Even though he has been receiving special care, and a special diet including protein shakes, vitamin and mineral supplements, he succumbed to old age."

Charlie is not the only chimp to have picked up human bad habits.

In February, it was reported a Russian chimpanzee was being sent to rehab after he started pestering visitors for alcohol and cigarettes.

Mr Khedama said the zoo hopes to find a new companion for its female chimp, Judy.

But he said: "We realise it will be almost impossible to replace a character like Charlie."

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