Indonesia says arrested Russian smuggled orangutan, lizards

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DENPASAR, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police said Monday they also found geckos and chameleons in the luggage of a Russian tourist who was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of Bali.

Andrei Zhestkov was detained late Friday at Bali’s international airport after security officers found a 2-year-old endangered male orangutan sleeping in a rattan basket in his luggage.

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

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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 the 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.

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