By Will Stewart, Simon Tomlinson
Baby orangutans are being bred in Russia as exotic pets to sell as playthings for the super-rich and are being advertised for sale on the internet for £24,000, a MailOnline investigation has found.
And the endangered creatures are not just being reared in Russia but also being imported in an apparent defiance of international rules.
With very little regulation and a myriad of legal loopholes, a booming animal trade has grown with a shocking selection of animals - from macaques to falcons - being offered up for sale over the internet.
At a 'nursery' called Exotic Zoo in Desna village outside Moscow, MailOnline was offered an orangutan for two million roubles (£23,845).
The great apes are in the Red Book, an internationally recognised list of endangered species.
Dealers claim that they have 'all the documentation' and boast that they make ideal pets because they mimic their owners, 'won't bite' and can be dressed in clothes and nappies.
The male orangutan we were offered was around one year old and and appeared to be in good condition.
The seller, who did not give his name but was in his 40s, told our reporter, who was posing as the representative of a rich potential buyer: 'Here you are, please hold it. Don't be afraid, they are like babies.
'He won't bite, he's curious about you. Let him hold your clothes with his hands and legs. He is about one year old, this is a perfect age to find a new home for him.
'This is a lovely pet, you can communicate with him, they are often like family members. They're never aggressive if they are born and brought up by people.'
One dealer here told potential customers that all the animals 'were born in the nursery under supervision of experienced professionals' and that they are regularly checked by vets.
'The young ones are absolutely domestic. They love to play, they have no problems wearing clothes or Pampers.' Our reporter, Tanya, was allowed to hold the orangutan for around 15 minutes. The curious animal looked intently into her face.
'Please tell your boss to make up his mind quickly, many are interested in orangutans and they are not born very often,' said the dealer, evidently expecting a rush of business ahead of New Year, when Russians traditionally exchange seasonal gifts.
Another dealer at Exotic Zoo told Tanya: 'I expect you have been calling other advertisements too.
'Please be careful with other offers, there are many people who bring these animals illegally from abroad.
'I'm sure your boss does not want problems with his new pet.
'We are the only legal nursery (in Russia) because we have the appropriate licences.'
He claimed their work was entirely above board.
'Our animals are born in Russia because we are a nursery, this is why all their documents are in order,' he said.
'When you buy an animal from us, you get its international passport and all the necessary veterinary documents.
'Having all these, you can easily travel with your animal wherever you want - around Russia or even abroad if you need it.
'Our monkeys have electronic chips in their bodies with international numbers, they can be easily identified if necessary.
'This is why our monkeys and other animals are quite expensive but if your client is serious, he would understand the difference.
'We have been in this business for many years. We have co-operated not only with private clients but also with zoos.
'We will give you all necessary recommendations how to take care of the animal.
'We will stay in touch if you need any help in the future.'
The nursery took strict measures to stop any photography at its site, though MailOnline obtained pictures inside this breeding centre for rare tropical animals which is based in two converted family houses.
Unless she made a downpayment of thousands of pounds undertaking to buy the baby orangutan, Tanya was told she was not permitted to photograph the creature or the facilities. More....