Attempted Case of Wildlife Smuggling Reminds the International Community of Its Prevalence

IMPORTANT: The full content of this page is available to premium users only.

Saturday, April 6, 2019
Alex Psilakis

On March 25, 2019, Indonesian authorities detained a Russian man accused of attempting to smuggle an orangutan out of the country. Andrei Zhestkov, the suspect, claimed that he purchased the animal from a market for $3,000, believing that he could bring it home as a pet. When Indonesian authorities discovered the orangutan inside one of Zhestkov’s suitcases at the international airport in Bali, they did not find an aggressive, terrified animal as they feared, but one sound asleep. Authorities uncovered allergy pills wrapped in plastic amongst Zhestkov’s belongings, which he had mixed with milk and fed to the animal, pacifying it for up to three hours. While he has not yet been charged, Zhestkov could face up to five years in prison, as well as fines of up to $7,000 for smuggling. Indonesian authorities have not charged Zhestkov because they are investigating if he is any way connected to wildlife trafficking syndicates. The case of Zhestkov is by no means unique. The illegal trade in wildlife is one of the most lucrative trades in the world. According to Interpol, the trade is valued at $20 billion a year. As it is so expansive, criminals often conduct other illicit activities in tandem with those toward wildlife, including money laundering, corruption, and document fraud.