Tourist busted trying to smuggle drugged orangutan out of Indonesia in suitcase

In this Saturday, March 23, 2019, photo released by Natural Resources Conservation Agency of Bali, a sedated two-year-old orangutan rests inside rattan basket following the arrest of a Russian national Andrei Zhestkov who allegedly tried to smuggle the ape out of the country. BKSDA Bali

A Russian tourist was arrested after attempting to smuggle a two-year-old orangutan found drugged and stuffed into a suitcase at an airport in Indonesia, authorities said.

The tourist, identified as Andrei Zhestkov, was arrested Friday at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali after an X-ray revealed the male orangutan was inside a basket stuffed in some luggage, the Jakarta Post reported.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), authorities opened the suitcase to find the animal asleep in the basket.

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“We believe the orangutan was fed allergy pills which caused him to sleep. We found the pills inside the suitcase,” Bali conservation agency official Ketut Catur Marbawa told reporters.

A two-year-old orangutan drinks from a bottle inside a cage during a press conference in Bali, Indonesia, March 25, 2019. EPA/Made Nagi

They added the suspect “seemed prepared, like he was transporting a baby.”

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Photos show Zhestkov appearing in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffed before cameras during a press conference. Authorities also showed pictures of the young orangutan.

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The Post reported that officers originally thought the animal was a monkey, based on the X-ray.

“The officers were afraid to open the basket, as they thought the monkey would be aggressive and run loose in the departure area,” Dewa Delanata, head of the airport’s quarantine office, said. “When it was taken to the examination room and we opened it, we were shocked to find an orangutan.”

Andrei Zhestkov 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

Zhestkov told authorities a friend he was travelling with purchased the orangutan from a street vendor and gifted the animal to him before leaving the country. The suspect claimed his friend said he could bring the animal home with him as a pet, AFP reported.

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Customs officers also found allergy pills, two geckos and five lizards in the man’s suitcase. Authorities said Zhestkov told them he deliberately fed the orangutan allergy pills mixed with milk, causing the animal to lose consciousness for up to three hours.

Zhestkov had planned to re-dose the animal during a transit in Seoul, authorities said.

The tourist could face up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines for smuggling, AFP reported.

–with a file from the Associated Press

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