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Man arrested after drugged orangutan is found in Indonesian airport



HONG KONG – Officers in the Indonesian resort island of Bali found a primate size of a human toddler curled up in a rattan basket this weekend – right in the middle of an international airport.

"At first we thought it was a monkey," said Dewa Delanata, head of the quarantine office at Bali's international airport, in the Jakarta Post newspaper. The officers were afraid to open the basket, he added because they assumed that the animal "would be aggressive and run loose in the departure area."

It turns out that the 2-year-old primate was a sleeping orangutan.

Officials say it was killed and smuggled to the airport on Friday by a Russian tourist. "The Russian deliberately used an inhuman method to take the orangutan to Russia," Dewa said.

The Associated Press identified the suspect as Andrei Zhestkov. He told the Indonesian authorities that he had bought the orangutan for $ 3,000 from a market in Java, the country's largest island, after a friend said he could bring it home as a pet.

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The 2-year-old orangutan inside a rattan basket. Credit Denpasar Quarantine Agency / EPA, via Shutterstock

Mr. Zhestkov's suitcase contained allergy pills wrapped in plastic. He said he had fed the animal allergy pills mixed with milk and caused loss of consciousness for up to three hours, said Ketut Catur Marbawa, a Bali conservation agency official, to journalists.

Herr. Marbawa said Sunday that the suitcase also contained two live geckos and five live lizards. Sir. Zhestkov, 27, could get up to five years in prison and $ 7,000 in smuggling fines, he said. He has not yet been charged because the police are still investigating whether he had ties to animal stroke syndicates.

Orangutans living on Indonesian and Malaysian sides of the island of Borneo, as well as the Indonesian island of Sumatra, are an endangered species. Only about 13,400 Sumatran orangutans remained in nature.

A study last year showed that nearly 150,000 borneo orangutans – about half of the animal's population on the island – had died between 1999 and 2015. The steepest decline in population density occurred in areas deforested or changed industrial agriculture, including the production of palm oil, one of Indonesia's largest exports.


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