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Officials Find Traffickers Selling Bags And Bags Of The Saddest Thing

It's being called a "massacre."

What Ivory Coast officials found in bags last week is being called the largest bust of its kind in West Africa. It's also being called a massacre.

An estimated 4,000 pangolins were killed for the scales that traffickers were trying to sell and ship to China, where the scales. There, the scales — which are made of keratin, the same material as our fingernails — are believed to have medicinal properties.

The scales were stuffed into bags weighing just over 3 tons, and were worth approximately $80,000.

Eight suspects found with the shipment were arrested.

The pangolin is a shy, nocturnal creature who has been driven to the verge of extinction because of this rampant trade. All eight species of pangolin, which are native to Asia and Africa, are now critically endangered and the pangolin is considered the most highly trafficked animal on the planet.

Sometimes traffickers stuff live pangolins into cramped boxes and bags to ship them to the far East, where pangolin meat is also considered a delicacy. Occasionally, wildlife officials are able to intercept these shipments and the surviving pangolins get a chance to be rehabilitated and released into the wild.

Sadly, that isn't the case this time, as the bags were full only of scales from the bodies of thousands of pangolins.

"Some of the contraband was concealed in a primary school with the logic that such an innocent location will never be searched," EAGLE, an anti-trafficking network, wrote. "Thousands of pangolins had to be killed for this shipment alone, and this criminal network was regularly carrying such a magnitude of pangolins' slaughter."

This bust comes just days after new research that shows how quickly the pangolin population is plummeting. At least 400,000 pangolins are being killed just in central Africa every year for the trade — but that number could be as high as 2.7 million.

“The number is definitely shocking,” Daniel Ingram, who led the research, told The Guardian. “Pangolins have been hunted out of many areas in Asia and recent analyses show there is a growing international trade between Africa and Asia. If we don’t act now to better understand and protect these charismatic animals, we may lose them.”

To help pangolins, you can make a donation to a wildlife rehabilitation center that helps pangolins saved from traffickers.