81 RARE Pangolins Discovered in Illegal Smuggling Ring [PHOTOS]

You may have never heard of these strange but beautiful creatures — however, you may be surprised to learn that they are one of the most popular illegally traded animals on the planet right now.

Recently, a man in Laos was arrested for trying to smuggle 81 Sunda Pangolins across the border. His bright idea completely backfired. Not only was he caught, 17 of the animals died.

Thankfully, Lao Wildlife Rescue and the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand rescued 48 healthy pangolins. They were released into the wild and are hopefully thriving.

So the question remains… why would this man want to smuggle these rare animals across the border?

The answer is cash. According to IFL Science, “the trade of these animals is expected to be worth around [$19 billion] annually. Since the 1900s, the price for a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of pangolin scales has surged from £8.50 to £330 ($13 to $500).”

Pangolin scales are highly sought after in China because it is believed they have medicinal value. Medicine is created after “dried scales are roasted, ashed, cooked in oil, butter, vinegar, boy’s urine, or roasted with earth or oyster-shells,” reports Nature.