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.

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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."

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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