Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 April 2019

Indonesia says arrested Russian tried to smuggle baby orangutan out of Bali in suitcase

Andrei Zhestkov had a two-year-old endangered male orangutan sleeping in a rattan basket in his luggage

Denpasar police chief Ruddi Setiawan, centre left, holds a two-year-old male orangutan as Russian Andrei Zhestkov, centre right, stands during a press conference in Bali, Indonesia on Monday, March 25, 2019. AP
Denpasar police chief Ruddi Setiawan, centre left, holds a two-year-old male orangutan as Russian Andrei Zhestkov, centre right, stands during a press conference in Bali, Indonesia on Monday, March 25, 2019. AP

Indonesian police said on Monday that a Russian suspect had tried to smuggle a baby orangutan out of Bali in his luiggage after drugging it.

They also found geckos and chameleons in the luggage of the Russian tourist, who now faces up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines for attempting to smuggle wildlife.

Andrei Zhestkov was detained late on Friday at Bali's international airport after security officers found a two-year-old endangered male orangutan sleeping in a rattan basket in his luggage.

Police showed the suspect along with the lizards and other evidence at a news conference in Denpasar on Monday. Zhestkov, wearing an orange detainee uniform, refused to comment.

Local police chief Ruddi Setiawan said Zhestkov had confessed that he bought the orangutan for $3,000 from a street market on Indonesia's main island of Java. He said Zhestkov said he fed it allergy pills mixed with milk so it would lose consciousness for up to 10 hours on his planned flight back home to Vladivostok.

"We are still investigating his motive in attempting to smuggle the orangutan out of Indonesia," Mr Setiawan said. "We are also searching for the trader who sold the animals to the suspect."

He said authorities found two geckos and four chameleons in his bags.

Dewa Delanata, head of the airport's quarantine office, told local Indonesian media that the suspect had used an "inhumane method" to smuggle the animal.

"At first, we thought it was a monkey. The officers were afraid to open the basket as they thought the monkey would be aggressive and run loose in the departure area," he said.

Orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Only about 13,400 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild.

They only exist on two islands, Smatra and Borneo, and many die because of illegal logging or habitat loss.

A 2018 comprehensive study of Borneo's orangutans estimated their numbers have plummeted by more than 100,000 since 1999, as the palm oil and paper industries shrink their habitat and fatal conflicts with people increase.

Updated: March 26, 2019 09:37 AM

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