Russian accused of smuggling orangutan, lizards

Police chief Ruddi Setiawan holds the two-year-old orangutan Russian Andrei Zhestkov (centre) is...
Police chief Ruddi Setiawan holds the two-year-old orangutan Russian Andrei Zhestkov (centre) is accused of trying to smuggle out of Bali Photo: AP

Indonesian police say they have found geckos and chameleons in the luggage of a Russian tourist arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of Bali.

Andrei Zhestkov was detained on Friday at Bali's international airport after security officers found a 2-year-old endangered male orangutan sleeping in a rattan basket in his luggage.

Police showed the suspect along with the lizards and other evidence at a news conference on Monday. Zhestkov, wearing an orange detainee uniform, refused to comment.

Local police chief Ruddi Setiawan said Zhestkov had confessed that he bought the orangutan for $US3000 ($NZ4300) from a street market on Indonesia's main island of Java.

He said Zhestkov said he fed it allergy pills mixed with milk so it would lose consciousness for up to 10 hours on his planned flight back home to Vladivostok.

"We are still investigating his motive in attempting to smuggle the orangutan out of Indonesia," Setiawan said. "We are also searching for the trader who sold the animals to the suspect."

Authorities found two geckos and four chameleons in his bags and Zhestkov, if found guilty, faces up to five years in jail and $US7000 in fines for attempting to smuggle wildlife, Setiawan said.

Orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Only about 13,400 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild.

A 2018 comprehensive study of Borneo's orangutans estimated 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.

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