18 July Lagos, Nigeria

The leaders of a global wildlife trafficking ring have been convicted after a four-year investigation and a trial in Nigeria. They pleaded guilty in July to smuggling the scales of endangered African pangolins. These traffickers are considered the top-of-the-pyramid and responsible for half the illegal trade in pangolin scales. Phan Chi (Big Mac), Phan Quan (Benz) and Duong Thang (Fries) were charged with smuggling and trading in pangolin scales and elephant ivory. Faced with little chance of acquittal, they admitted their guilt on the eve of a trial earlier this month. The men were sentenced to six years each and agreed to pay fines as part of a plea bargain to avoid more time behind bars.