A criminal organization kidnapped 2 whale sharks. This international team freed them.

The Indonesian government just busted a high-level criminal ring in a story that reads like some sort of awesome Hollywood spy thriller.

It began with a tip-off that something was amiss back in late 2014; the cast was an international coalition of crime-busters; the plot follows an 18-month investigation; and it ended with an epic conclusion: a bust and the recovery of stolen goods.

What stolen goods were being recovered, exactly? It wasn't famous paintings, diamonds, sunken treasure, or even a certain golden falcon statue.


The prize was two 14-foot whale sharks.

The two whale sharks were being kept in a pen when the Indonesian agencies found them. All photos by Paul Hilton/Wildlife Conservation Society.

On May 27, 2016, Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Wildlife Crimes Unit, busted up an operation that had captured the two marine leviathans.

The captured sharks had been destined for the illegal wildlife trade.

One of the whale sharks in a darkened holding pen.

A company known as PT. Air Biru Maluku captured the sharks off the coast of Indonesia. It had previously received government permission to collect and breed ornamental fish.

But whale sharks are not ornamental fish. They are 40-foot-long megafauna. And PT. Air Biru Maluku had no permission to do anything with those.

The company's plans to sell the gigantic fish was nothing short of illegal.

The illegal wildlife trade is a multibillion-dollar industry that turns wild plants and animals into souvenirs, status symbols, pets, and medicine.

The whale shark holding pen.

Rhinos, elephants, and tigers are some of the most famous victims of the illegal wildlife trade, killed for their horns, ivory, and pelts. But thousands of different wildlife species are threatened by the illegal trade, including whale sharks.

Whale sharks can be kept in large aquariums successfully and responsibly; there are places in the United States accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that whale sharks call home. But given the criminal nature of this particular operation, these sharks were probably not destined for anywhere quite so nice.

Criminals often target endangered species specifically because their rarity makes them more valuable.

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN, and a protected species in Indonesia.

One of the captured whale sharks swims in its pen while authorities confront the suspects.

These aquatic behemoths can weigh more than 20 tons. Imagine a giant fish the size and weight of a yellow school bus swimming through the ocean and you'll get a good idea of what getting up close and personal with one would be like.

In fact, swimmers can often approach the giant fish. Though whale sharks are big and have "shark" in their name, their temperament is more like the "whale" part — they're pretty docile. Like their mammalian rivals for the heavyweight title, baleen whales, whale sharks only eat the tiny floating plants and animals known as plankton.

The good news: Thanks to the heroics of the rescue crew, the two captive whale sharks have been returned to the wild.

Divers escorted the giant fish back into the ocean unharmed. We still don't know a lot about the whale shark's life cycle, but it's thought that they might live more than a century, meaning these two may have a long lives ahead of them back in the ocean.

A diver escorting the sharks back into the ocean.

As for the criminals, as of May 27, nobody had been arrested ... yet. But anyone found guilty could face up to six years in prison and over $100,000 in fines.

Thanks to agencies like the Wildlife Conservation Society and governments like Indonesia's, we can help give these magnificent animals a good home and keep them out of criminal hands.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."