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
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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.


Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

Updated 20 July 2019
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Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

  • At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week
  • South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season

GAUHATI, India: The death toll in monsoon flooding in South Asia has risen to 152 as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt in three countries, officials said Saturday.
At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week. A dozen have been killed in Bangladesh.
Shiv Kumar, a government official in Assam, said 10 rare one-horned rhinos have died in Kaziranga National Park since the Brahmaputra River burst its banks, flooding the reserve.
Some 4.8 million people spread over 3,700 villages across the state are still affected by the floods, though the frequency of rains has decreased in the past 24 hours, the Assam Disaster Response Authority said. More than 2.5 million have also been hit by flooding in India’s Bihar state.
Amid the flooding, 20-year-old Imrana Khatoon delivered her first baby on a boat in floodwaters early Friday while on her way to a hospital in Assam’s flooded Gagalmari village, locals said. The woman and the newborn were brought back to their home without getting to the hospital.
Community health worker Parag Jyoti Das, who visited the family, said there were no post-delivery health complications. However, the mother and the child were moved to a hospital on a boat to the nearby town of Jhargaon because of unhygienic conditions due to floodwaters, Das said. The health center in Khatoon’s village was flooded and closed.
“I would have felt happier if the baby’s father was here,” said Khatoon, whose husband works in a hotel in the southern state of Kerala.
More than 147,000 people have taken shelter in 755 government-run camps across Assam, officials said.
Authorities warned they would take action against suppliers who were reported to be distributing poor quality rice and other essentials to marooned people and inmates of temporary shelters at some places.
“We have ordered the arrest of those unscrupulous elements supplying substandard materials and playing with the lives of the affected people,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s finance minister.
In Nepal, the Home Ministry said about 36,728 families were affected by the monsoon rains. The flooding and mudslides forced some 13,000 families to flee their homes.
In at least two of Nepal’s districts, helicopters were used to transport emergency food supplies, while other transport means were being used to move tents and other supplies to the victims.
South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season.