Fri, 21 Jun 2019

Authorities in Indonesia say they have detained a Russian tourist who was attempting to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of the resort island of Bali.

Ketut Catur Marbawa from Bali Province's conservation agency said on March 24 that Andrei Zhestkov, 27, was detained at Denpasar airport late on March 22 while passing through a security screening before a planned flight back to Russia.

Officers stopped the man and opened his luggage to find a 2-year-old male orangutan sleeping inside a rattan basket.

Marbawa said that customs officers also found allergy pills in the passenger's luggage, as well as two geckos and five lizards. All the animals were alive.

Orangutans are a protected species that face threats from deforestation and poaching. They are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Zhestkov could face up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines if convicted for smuggling.

Marbawa quoted Zhestkok as telling authorities he had fed the orangutan allergy pills mixed with milk, causing the animal to lose consciousness for up to three hours.

He told officials he planned to readminister the drugs during a transit in South Korea.

The Russian tourist packed baby formula and blankets for the orangutan, Marbawa said, adding that he seemed prepared, like he was transporting a baby.'

Zhestkov told authorities that the orangutan was gifted by a friend who had bought the primate for $3,000 from a street market.

He claimed his friend, also Russian, had convinced him he could bring the orangutan to Russia as a pet.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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