A teenage gorilla at a Chicago zoo is addicted to smartphones. He’s obsessed with the devices of visitors which he can see through his glass enclosure and now authorities are cutting down on his screen time

A gorilla at Chicago’s Lincoln Park zoo has been staring at phone screens of visitors who show him pictures and videos through the glass wall. Representation picture / AFP

Among the biggest vices of the 21st century is the cell phone. And man is not the only one suffering from an addiction to it. An eastern lowland gorilla has a smartphone problem too.

But do animals suffer from addiction? We take a look

Too much screentime for this gorilla

A resident of Chicago’s Lincoln Park zoo, Amare simply can’t stop staring at the phone. He was so engrossed with the screen that he did not notice when another gorilla charged at him.

Amare, of course, does not have a phone of his own. His addiction stems from zoo visitors showing him pictures and videos through the glass divider of his enclosure.

The problem is real and now zoo authorities are doing everything they can to cut down the 16-year-old primate’s screentime. They have put a rope to keep people away from the glass partition. And if they see anyone showing Amare a video, they will step in and discourage them from doing so.

“We are growing increasingly concerned that too much of his time is taken looking through people’s photos, we really prefer that he spend much more time with his troop mates learning to be a gorilla,” Stephen Ross, the director of the zoo’s Lester E Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, told the Chicago-Sun Times.

If Amare gets too distracted with gadgets, he will miss out on interaction with the other gorillas and will have a lower social standing in the group. It could lead to bullying and, as the zoo puts it, “severe developmental consequences”, reports UK Metro.

But the Chicago primate is not the first animal to suffer from addiction.

The sheep that smoked

A sheep from Karnataka’s Mandya was reportedly addicted to cigarettes and would try to sneak them from people gathered at tea shops. Its addiction was so strong that it would shun its usual diet of greens for tobacco. It chewed tobacco and snacked on bedis, according to a report in Mirror UK.

A gorilla fixated on phones trout craving meth Do animals suffer from addiction

Elephants enjoy the sweet fruit of the marula tree and get intoxicated. AFP

Yes, animals enjoy alcohol… and get drunk

Alcohol drinking is all too common among primates.

West African chimpanzees are frequent drinkers, consuming an equivalent of three pints of strong lager per day. A 2015 study published in Royal Society Open Science pointed to a group of wild chimpanzees in Guinea who raided the sites of palm alcohol production. They often drank from breakfast until nightfall – although, interestingly, only on one occasion was an individual observed who had a few too many, according to a report in The Conversation. The chimpanzees were smart enough to regulate their intake.

Interestingly, in monkeys, younger individuals are more likely to drink than older ones. It is [possible] that adults drink less because they have to be more alert and perceptive of the social dynamics of the group, according to research led by Jorge Juarez of Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

Elephants too like to get drunk. They seek out the marula tree and enjoy the intoxicating effects of the juice. In the 1830s, French naturalist Adulphe Delegorgue spoke of aggressive behavior in male elephants after they fed on the marula fruits. But physiologists believe that for elephants to get drunk they would have to eat fermenting marula fruits at four times their natural consumption speed for a whole day.

Recreational drug use?

Rough-toothed dolphins have been observed supping on a pufferfish toxin. In 1995, marine scientist Lisa Steiner provided perhaps the first description of a peculiar behavior she witnessed near the Azores, where she found that the dolphins were lying motionless after playing around with pufferfish, reports BBC.

Pufferfish venom, tetrodotoxin, is 120,000 times as deadly as cocaine and 40,000 times as deadly as meth. Marine biologist Christie Wilcox writes in Discover Magazine that dolphins might explore pufferfish, and may accidentally expose themselves to a bit of the toxin. But she is extremely skeptical of the notion that dolphins were dosing themselves intentionally, with such precision to achieve a bit of numbness without accidentally overdosing.

The same can’t be said for other creatures of the water.

A 2021 study found that traces of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs that enter waterways could cause addiction in fish.

Laboratory experiments found that brown trout, a common fish in Eastern European rivers, exposed to methamphetamine at concentrations like those seen just downstream of wastewater treatment plants showed signs of addiction – such as being less active – and withdrawal. In the wild, meth-addicted fish could have difficulties reproducing and finding food, reports The National Geographic. The meth-exposed trout preferred to swim in the meth-laced water, particularly in the four days after their drug supply stopped, according to the research.

Another study found that cocaine in European rivers could interfere with reproduction in critically endangered eels.

A gorilla fixated on phones trout craving meth Do animals suffer from addiction

Dogs can perceive images on television just the way we do. AFP

Addiction to TV

Like the gorilla Amare, dogs too can get addicted to the screen.

Domestic dogs can perceive images on television similarly to the way we do and just like us they are likely to get impacted and maybe even addicted. If a heated television news debate stresses you out, the anxiety is going to rub off on the dog.

While TV is good to keep dogs distracted, too much screen time is not good for them. Dogs are known to display obsessive behavior and hence if they are fixated on a screen that’s not good news.

With inputs from agencies

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