A Russian tourist has been arrested in Indonesia after airport security discovered a drugged orangutan in his suitcase, local officials said Saturday.
Andrei Zhestkov, 27, told authorities that a friend had given him the 2-year-old animal as a gift. The friend had purchased the orangutan for about $3,000 at a Javanese market, Zhestkov claimed.
The tourist said he’d intended on bringing the orangutan back with him to Russia to keep as a pet. Police said Zhestkov also had two geckos and several lizards, all of them alive, in his luggage.
Security personnel at Bali’s Denpasar airport found the orangutan asleep in a rattan basket inside Zhestkov’s suitcase on Friday night, Ketut Catur Marbawa, a Bali conservation agency official, told Agence France-Presse.
The Russian admitted to feeding the animal allergy pills to sedate it, Marbawa said. It’s unclear whether the reptiles in Zhestkov’s luggage had been similarly drugged.
Zhestkov could face up to five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines for the attempted smuggling, AFP reported.
The state of the young orangutan’s health was not known, but it appeared alert and active in a Saturday photo obtained by Reuters.
All three species of orangutan are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The animals, native to Indonesia and Malaysia, have been driven to the brink of extinction by deforestation, the illegal pet trade and poaching.