Charlie the Smoking Chimp Dies: What Killed Him?

charlie smoking chimp AP/CBS News)

Charlie the smoking chimp.
Charlie the smoking chimp. (AP)

(CBS) Charlie the smoking chimp has taken his last puff.

The cigarette-loving simian, who gained worldwide fame years ago after videos of him puffing away were widely circulated, has died at the relatively advanced age of 52 at a South African zoo.

Only about seven percent of captive chimps make it past age 40, according to a 2007 Harvard study cited by the New York Daily News.

Smoking certainly takes a heavy toll on humans, causing an estimated halfa-million deaths each year in the U.S. alone. But it doesn't seem to have caused Charlie's demise.

"He appears to have died of old age," a zoo spokesman said, according to the newspaper.

Maybe that's because he was only an occasional smoker.

One zoo worker told the Daily Mail that in the 15 years he has worked there, he saw Charlie smoke about five times.

Then again, no one knows exactly how much Charlie smoked, because he did tried hard to hide his habit. Whenever he got caught, he would throw the cigarette down and grin, trying to keep zookeepers from noticing the discarded butt.

Charlie apparently learned to smoke while working as a circus performer in the U.S.

Though Charlie is dead, he may live on as a zoo attraction. According to the Daily Mail, zoo officials are thinking of having him stuffed.

Sorry, Charlie.

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