Police Find The Saddest Thing Stashed Away In Shipping Crate

They're the most highly trafficked mammal on the planet.

Bags and bags of animal parts were seized from illegal wildlife traffickers at a port in Shenzhen, China, country officials just announced — and it's being called one of the largest busts of its kind ever. 

While the news just broke, the roughly 13 tons of thin, brownish and gray scales were found in July. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 critically endangered pangolins died so that the haul could be trafficked to China, where pangolin scales are believed to have medicinal properties.

The pangolin scales were found in 239 bags discovered inside a large shipping container that had been listed as empty. Two people were arrested in connection with the discovery.

Pangolins are considered the most highly trafficked mammal on the planet. That they are shy, nocturnal creatures who curl up into tight little balls when frightened makes their exploitation especially heartbreaking. Mother pangolins are also tightly bonded with their babies, who ride around on their moms' backs when very young. 

Even though it's been internationally banned to trade pangolins or their scales, the demand is high and trafficking is still rampant. It's estimated that one million pangolins were stolen from the wild and killed over the past decade.

"There is no question that pangolins are suffering deeply at the hands of traffickers. This most recent incident is another example of why we need stronger penalties and tougher enforcement of protections for these animals immediately," the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said in a statement provided to The Dodo. "However, tougher restrictions and enforcement represent only one component of the equation. More has to be done to reduce demand for pangolin parts and products ... [M]ore needs to be done so we don’t see pangolins go extinct within our lifetime.”

Live pangolins found with traffickers in Vietnam
Live pangolins saved from traffickers in Vietnam earlier this year | Save Vietnam's Wildlife
To help save pangolins, you can make a donation to Save Vietnam's Wildlife, an organization that rehabilitates and releases pangolins who almost lost their lives to traffickers.