Russian jailed in Bali for smuggling drugged orangutan

Andrei Zhestkov (R) of Russia stands near a police officer holding an orangutan during a press conference at Ngurah Rai Airport near Denpasar. (AFP)

A Russian tourist who attempted to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of Indonesia in his suitcase was sentenced to a year in prison Thursday after claiming that he wanted to keep the animal as a pet.

Judges also ordered Andrei Zhestkov to pay a 10 million rupiah ($700) fine or serve two additional months in prison.

The 28-year-old was detained at Bali's Denpasar airport in March while passing through a security screening before his flight to Russia.

Suspicious officers stopped him and opened his luggage to find a two-year-old male orangutan sleeping inside a rattan basket.

Officials believed Zhestkov drugged the ape with allergy pills before putting it inside the basket which also contained baby formula and blankets.

Police also found two live geckos and five lizards inside the suitcase. Zhestkov told authorities that the protected species was gifted by his friend, another Russian tourist who bought the primate for $3,000 from a street market in Java.

He claimed his friend, who has since left Indonesia, convinced him he could bring home the orangutan as a pet.

Orangutans are a critically endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with only about 100,000 remaining worldwide.

Plantation workers and villagers in Indonesia often consider the apes pests and sometimes attack them, while poachers capture the animals to sell as pets. A string of fatal attacks on the apes has been blamed on farmers and hunters.

Four Indonesian men were arrested last year over the killing of an orangutan shot some 130 times with an air gun.

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