Russian jailed in Bali for smuggling drugged orangutan

Russian tourist Andrei Zhestkov, right, stands near a police officer in this March 25, 2019 photo after he was arrested after attempting to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of Indonesia. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019

Russian jailed in Bali for smuggling drugged orangutan

  • Judges also ordered Andrei Zhestkov to pay a 10-million rupiah fine or serve two additional months in prison
  • Orangutans are a critically endangered species, with only about 100,000 remaining worldwide

DENPASAR, Indonesia: 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.


China reports 17 new cases in viral pneumonia outbreak

Updated 19 January 2020

China reports 17 new cases in viral pneumonia outbreak

  • In total, 62 cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified in the city of Wuhan
  • At least a half-dozen countries in Asia and three US airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China

BEIJING: Seventeen more people in central China have been diagnosed with a new form of viral pneumonia that has killed two patients and placed other countries on alert as millions of Chinese travel for Lunar New Year holidays.
In total, 62 cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified in the city of Wuhan, where the virus appears to have originated. The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported the new cases in a statement Sunday.
Nineteen of those individuals have been discharged from the hospital, while two men in their 60s — one with severe preexisting conditions — have died from the illness. Eight are in critical condition.
At least a half-dozen countries in Asia and three US airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China. The list includes Thailand and Japan, which have together reported three cases of the disease in people who had come from Wuhan.
In the most recently diagnosed group, ages ranged between 30 and 79, Wuhan’s health commission said. Their initial symptoms were fever and cough.
The health commission’s statement did not say whether these patients had visited the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been suspended after many infected individuals reported having either worked at or visited the venue.
Li Gang, director and chief physician of the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state broadcaster CCTV that “the infectivity of the new coronavirus is not strong.” Infectivity refers to how rapidly the virus may spread between individuals.
Most patients are experiencing mild symptoms, Li said, and no related cases have been found in more than 700 people who came into close contact with infected patients.
This “does not rule out the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission, but the risk of continuous human-to-human transmission is low,” Li said. “With the implementation of our various prevention and control measures, the epidemic can be prevented and controlled.”
The Chinese government is keen to avoid a repeat of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, another coronavirus that started in southern China in late 2002 and spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people.