Police around the world have lots of different tools at their disposal when it comes to fighting crime, but perhaps the most useful doesn’t involve weapons or handcuff. Rather, it’s their intuition. Officers often have to rely on their instincts when something just doesn’t feel right, even if they can’t immediately see why.
So when police officers in the Chinese region of Guangxi spotted a car riding suspiciously low to the ground despite having only two people inside, something told them that it was worth investigating.
The officers pulled over the vehicle and performed a thorough search. At first they thought they’d made a mistake; they couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary to explain the car’s obvious weight issues. That’s when they noticed a strong smell—and they made a shocking discovery.
When police officers in the Guangxi region of China noticed that a car with only two riders inside was sitting unusually low to the ground, they immediately stopped the vehicle. Suspecting something was amiss—drugs? Weapons?—they searched the car, uncovering a hidden panel in the process. When they saw what was inside, however, they couldn’t believe their eyes.
Underneath the seats were 39 live pangolins. Pangolins are small mammals that are sometimes described as “scaly anteaters.” These little guys are actually the only known species of mammal on Earth that has scales, and they were in serious danger.
The name “pangolin” roughly translates as “folding into a ball,” which is exactly what these animals do when threatened. That’s certainly what they must have done when they were taken by the criminals. But what were these men planning to do with them?
Pangolins are, after all, sweet, solitary, and nocturnal creatures who live in holes and hollowed-out trees. They typically feed on ants and termites. Despite their noxious odor, they are pretty much harmless to humans.
Tragically, pangolins are highly rare, and they’re listed somewhere between “vulnerable” and “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Today, the pangolin is the most trafficked animal in the entire world.
Pangolin meat is actually considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures partly due to ancient-held beliefs that pangolin scales can help cure cancer and asthma. As a result, there have been frequent cases of poaching and illegal pangolin shipments from Indonesia to China.
Over the past decade, officials have started cracking down more on the illegal transportation of pangolins. In one case, authorities were able to seize 10 tons of pangolin meat from a Chinese ship.
In the case of the 39 pangolins found in the hidden compartment of the car, one of the drivers fled the scene and is currently still at large. Luckily, the officers managed to arrest the other poacher. Hopefully, both will be brought to justice soon.
Nevertheless, as long as pangolin meat remains in demand, this unique creature will be in grave danger of becoming extinct. That is, unless humans take more active measures to protect them…
Hopefully, with enough awareness, pangolins will be able to thrive throughout their various territories once again someday soon. Besides, who would want to hurt such an adorable little animal?
These poachers have to be stopped, and it’s a good thing the police trusted their instincts in this case. For more information about the pangolin, visit the World Wildlife Fund.
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