Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wanted

Unknown
Igor sounded rather cynical, as if he was the kind of man who could continue business even though he had just locked someone's wife and kids in his basement.

That's almost certainly unfair. It was probably just a rare mountain goat down there, for he is in the business of smuggling and selling some of the world's most endangered animals. The orangutan, which is pictured in his advert, is sitting on the side of a wooden cot, staring with his large eyes. "He is yours," said Igor, "for only $20,000."

"First, you need to pay a $10,000 advance," he said.

"Can I get a vet to check him out before paying?"

"No, he's fine," Igor said. "Pay the deposit, then you can look at him."

"What about a tiger?"

"It's no problem. I can get you whatever you want," he said. "A tiger or an elephant."

"Is it dangerous keeping a tiger?"

"There is nothing difficult, you just need to castrate it if it is a male.

"A brick can drop on your head at any time," he added, presumably to show that the world is a dangerous place even if you don't have a tiger ruining your tulips in the garden.

"The tiger is only $15,000."

"Why's that?"

"Of course it is cheaper, an orangutan is an orangutan. It all depends on how rare it is in the wild," he said.


Igor is well-known to the World Wildlife Fund. He runs a web site that sells VIP parrots and on the side trades endangered animals from parrots to leopards and tigers.

The problem is that Russia does not have legislation or the desire to prosecute him for selling, said Natalia Dronova, an expert in trafficking at the WWF Russia.

The police would have to entrap him by buying an animal before they could arrest him, and then -- unlike in China where you can get the death penalty -- he would be lucky to get a jail sentence.

There is a much-watched video on YouTube where two hippies play with a lion they had bought in the days that Harrods in London had an exotic animals section.

They call him Christian, take care of him, play with him on an English lawn but eventually return him to the African wild because he is getting too big. Years later, they go to Africa to look for him.

As he pads out toward them, there is a moment when you ask -- despite "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston playing in the background -- "Will he eat them?" But he runs, jumps up, hugs them and licks them happily.

Igor is not going to get such a welcome.