A routine security check at Denpasar Airport in Bali on Friday ended up saving a tiny life.
As a traveler’s bags went through an X-ray scanner, security officers spotted a tiny body inside one of the suitcases. They pulled the bags aside to search, and sure enough, there was someone curled up inside his luggage.
It was a fuzzy baby orangutan, fast asleep inside a basket, almost like a human baby. The tiny animal had been stolen from the wild to be sold as a pet, but luckily, the officers’ instincts saved his life. The suitcase also contained allergy pills, two geckos and five lizards, authorities said.
“We believe the orangutan was fed allergy pills which caused him to sleep,” Bali conservation agency official I Ketut Catur Marbawa said in a statement.
Local police said the man later confessed that he had bought the orangutan for $3,000 from a street market in Java. He fed the young ape milk mixed with allergy pills so he would lose consciousness for up to 10 hours on the man’s flight back home to Vladivostok, Russia. Once they arrived, the man planned to further inject him with other sedatives.
Police detained and later arrested the man, named as Andrei Zhestkov, for smuggling the young ape. Zhestkov could now face up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines for the crime.
While the little animal was clearly stolen from the wild and drugged, he was found in time before going off to a life of mistreatment. With only about 100,000 total orangutans surviving worldwide, both Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are endangered species that depend on each individual.
While it’s unclear if this young ape will be able to return to the wild after being rehabilitated, he is currently being cared for at the Bali Natural Resources Conservation Agency to give him the best chances for release.