An orangutan has been found drugged and passed out in a basket inside a suitcase at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. The ape had been forcefully fed allergy pills mixed with milk, causing it to lose consciousness.
A Russian tourist was arrested for trying to smuggle the two-year-old orangutan out of the country.
Dewa Delanata, head of the airport’s quarantine office, told The Jakarta Post: “The man deliberately used an inhumane method to take the orangutan to Russia. At first, we thought it was a monkey. The officers were afraid to open the basket, as they thought the monkey would be aggressive and run loose in the departure area.”
The basket was then taken to another room for further examination, which was when they made the discovery.
The suspect, Andrei Zhestkov, 27, admitted to authorities that he fed the ape allergy pills and was planning to give it more, according to information by the Bali Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BNRCA). He had bought the orangutan for $3,000 (£2,300) from a market on Indonesia’s main island of Java.
Conservation official Ketut Catur Marbawa said the man was “prepared, like he was transporting a baby.”
Marbawa said Zhestkov could face up to five years in prison for the crime. Authorities are investigating if this incident was linked to a wider smuggling operation. The orangutan, meanwhile, has been transferred to the BNRCA for further care and treatment.
There are only around 100,000 orangutans left worldwide and they are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
David Barritt, chief campaigner for Network of Animals (NFA), called on the country’s judicial authorities to hand down a tough sentence to set an example to other similar smugglers.
“Animal trafficking should be a serious offence, yet it is not. The law needs to set an example to mitigate this kind of animal cruelty. The poor creature could easily have suffocated and even if it survived it would have faced a sad life in Russia. We hope the Balinese judiciary hands down a tough sentence to the criminal who did this.”