Authorities say they have arrested a Russian tourist who was attempting to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of the Indonesian resort island of Bali.
Ketut Catur Marbawa from Bali province’s conservation agency said 27-year-old Andrei Zhestkov was captured late on Friday at the airport after an X-ray found the two-year-old male orangutan in a rattan basket inside his luggage.
Mr Marbawa said that customs officers also found allergy pills, two geckos and five lizards in the man’s suitcase. All the animals were alive.
He said that Zhestkok told authorities he deliberately fed the orangutan allergy pills mixed with milk, causing the animal to lose consciousness for up to three hours.
Zhestkov also told officials he bought the orangutan for 3,000 US dollars (£2,270) from a market on Indonesia’s main island of Java after being told by a friend that he could bring it home as a pet.
Mr Marbawa said Zhestkov had yet to be charged because police were still investigating to see if there were links to international syndicates involved in wildlife trafficking.
Mr Marbawa did not know whether Zhestkov had a lawyer. He said the Russian mission in Bali had been informed about the case.
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 estimates 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.