World

Russian tourist caught trying to smuggle endangered orangutan out of Bali

Indonesian police say they arrested a Russian tourist last week who was trying to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of Bali. They say they also found geckos and chameleons in the man's luggage.

Man says he fed the animal allergy pills to knock it out for the trip home

Indonesian authorities arrested a Russian tourist for attempting to smuggle this two-year-old drugged orangutan out of the resort island of Bali. (Firdia Lisnawati/Associated Press)

Indonesian police say they arrested a Russian tourist last week who was trying to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of Bali.

They say they also found geckos and chameleons in the man's luggage.

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

Police showed the suspect along with the lizards and other evidence at a news conference on Monday.

The orangutan was found in a rattan basket after an airport X-ray revealed something suspicious. (BKSDA Bali/Associated Press)

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 US 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," Setiawan said. "We are also searching for the trader who sold the animals to the suspect."

Russian Andrei Zhestkov, right, could face five years in jail and a $7,000 US fine. (Firdia Lisnawati/Associated Press)

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

He said Zhestkov, if found guilty, faces up to five years in jail and $7,000 in fines for attempting to smuggle wildlife.

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

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.