A Russian man could face up to five years in jail after allegedly trying to smuggle a drugged baby orangutan from Indonesia in a suitcase.
Andrei Zhestkov was arrested on Friday at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport. Local media said the orangutan, two geckos and four chameleons were allegedly found inside a small rattan basket in one of his suitcases.
At a press conference in Denpasar on Monday, police chief Sr. Comr. Ruddi Setiawan said Zhestko was on his way to Russia.
“The suspect said that the baby orangutan was taken from Java to Bali,” Ruddi told the press conference. “We are still investigating where he got the baby orangutan.”
Orangutans are critically endangered, with Indonesia’s population halving from 148,000 in 1999 to as few as 70,000 in 2015, a 2018 report said.
The animals only exist on two islands – Sumatra and Borneo – with habitat loss and illegal logging contributing to most deaths in the wild.
Speaking to the Jakarta Post on Saturday, Dewa Delanata, head of the airport’s quarantine office, said Zhestkov was accused of “deliberately using an inhumane method” to allegedly smuggle the two-year-old orangutan.
“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,” Dewa said.