Last month, Interpol, the world cops, announced the resultsof its”largest coordinated operation against the illegal poaching and trade in pangolins,” which was probably the only coordinated operation against the illegal poaching and trade in pangolins.One search yielded 5 tons of frozen pangolins headed to Vietnam.

That leaves the rest of us with just one question: What’s a pangolin?

Pangolins are small nocturnal armadillo-like critters that live in the tropics of Asia and Africa and is Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Unfortunately,like all of the other creatures covered by CITES, they are tasty and believed to have medicinal uses.

Interested? Read on, the Interpol release on the operation is below:

Pangolin traffickers arrested in INTERPOL operation across Asia

Countries across Southeast Asia have taken part in the largestcoordinated operation against the illegal poaching and trade in pangolins. Operation Libra, coordinated by INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme, took place in June and Julyand involved investigationsand enforcement actions across Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Supported by the Freeland Foundation through a grantfromUSAID, the operation led to the arrest of more than 40 individuals, with some 200 additional cases currently under investigation across the region.

Pangolins are found across most of Asia and Africa. The nocturnal mammals feed on termites and other insects using a well-developed sense of smell to locate their prey. During the day, and for protection, they curl into a ball, protected by large scales which cover their body. Pangolins are poached and illegally traded by the thousands, due to a high demand for their scales, which are used in traditional medicine,and their meat,which isconsidered a delicacy.Because of their secluded nature, the impact of the illegal trade on the pangolins and their habitatsisdifficult to assess, but some Southeast Asian forests are believed to be nearly devoid of pangolins.

During Operation Libra, which also saw the assistance of the World CustomsOrganization (WCO) and the ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network,enforcement agencies conducted raids on restaurants and other premises across the region. Approximately 1,220 pangolins were recovered,almost halfof which were still alive. In addition to pangolins, birds, snakes and eight tigers cubs were also seized.

In one case, as a result of close international cooperation,Indonesian authoritiesdiscovered a shipment of frozen pangolins bound forVietnam.INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure communicationssystem was used and additional assistance provided by the WCO to track the shipment to Hai Phong, Vietnam, where it was intercepted by customs officers. The shipment was found to contain 260 cartons of frozen pangolins weighing 5 tonnesin total.The twocountries are working together to identify the suspects.

All eight species of pangolin are protected under national laws, and are also covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In spite of this, thousands of animals are seized every year. Whilst some animals are foundalive, their chances of survival are poor due to harsh transportation conditions and their release in unsuitable environments.