Smuggled orangutan heads back to the wild


Bon voyage, Bon Bon: A keeper holding Bon Bon at the Ngurah Rai International Airport near Denpasar in Bali. — AFP

Bali: A baby orangutan that was drugged by a Russian trafficker in a failed bid to smuggle it out of Bali will be released back into the wild.

The case made headlines in March when suspicious authorities on the Indonesian holiday island stopped Andrei Zhestkov, who was flying back to Russia, and opened his luggage to find a two-year-old orangutan sleeping inside a rattan basket.

Zhestkov, sentenced to a year in prison in July, had packed baby formula and blankets for the orangutan. He was also carrying two live geckos and five lizards inside the suitcase.

On Monday, conservation authorities in Bali rolled out a big fruit plate for fuzzy-haired Bon Bon as he prepares to move to a conservation centre in Sumatra – one of just two places where the critically endangered species is found in the wild.

Bon Bon’s caretaker, Ketut Diandika, confessed to being a little bit sad at the ape’s departure.

“I actually want Bon Bon to stay here so that I can still take care of him,” he said.

The South-East Asian archipelago’s rainforests boast some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world and it is a key source and transit point for animal trafficking.

In a separate case at the weekend, officials in Sumatra’s Riau province said they arrested two men, allegedly part of an international trafficking ring, who were attempting to smuggle four lion cubs and a baby leopard from Africa, along with dozens of tortoises. — AFP

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