Animal smuggling
Andrei Zhestkov (R) of Russia stands near a police officer holding an orangutan during a press conference at Ngurah Rai Airport near Denpasar on March 25, 2019. (SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Russian tourist was arrested after trying to smuggle a drugged orangutang out of Indonesia in his suitcase, police said.
  • Andrei Zhestkov said he wanted to keep the orangutang as a pet.
  • He told authorities he fed the primate allergy pills and milk so it would lose consciousness.
  • Also in Zhestkov's luggage were two geckos, and five lizards.
  • According to Indonesian authorities, Zhestkov could face up to five years in prison, as well as a R100,000 fine for smuggling.

A Russian man was arrested in Indonesia after attempting to smuggle a drugged orangutang out of the country in his luggage, local police said on Sunday.

Andrei Zhestkov was preparing to fly out of the resort island Bali on Friday when an X-ray machine flagged the primate inside his suitcase, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Security officers found the two-year-old Borneo orangutang sleeping inside a fruit basket, according to the AP. The suitcase also contained allergy pills, two geckos, and five lizards, authorities said.

The 27-year-old tourist told authorities that he fed the orangutang a mixture of allergy pills and milk so that it would lose consciousness for up to three hours, the AP reported. He said he wanted to re-dose the ape during a layover in Seoul, South Korea.

Ketut Catur Marbawa, an official with Bali province's conservation agency, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Zhestkov also packed baby formula and blankets.

"He seemed prepared, like he was transporting a baby," Marbawa said.

Zhestkov told Indonesian authorities that he wanted to keep the orangutang as a pet, AFP reported. He said he received the primate as a gift from a friend, another Russian tourist who bought it for the equivalent of R40,000 at a street market on the island of Java.

The Russian citizen could face a five-year prison sentence and a R100,000 smuggling fine, Marbawa told AFP.

Orangutangs are a critically endangered species, thanks to palm oil plantations and illegal loggers encroaching on their natural habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). A little more than 100,000 Borneo orangutangs remain worldwide.

Orangutang are especially vulnerable to hunters because they are large and slow, according to WWF.

Earlier this month a female orangutang was blinded after she was stabbed and shot 74 times with an air gun near an Indonesian palm oil plantation. Her newborn did not survive.

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