A Chinese woman, dubbed the ‘queen of ivory’ has been charged for her alleged involvement in smuggling nearly 1.9 tonnes of ivory.
Yang Fenglan, 66, was followed by a task force for over a year prior to her arrest last week and has now been charged with smuggling and trafficking 709 elephant tusks weighing nearly 1.9 tonnes.
Two Tanzanian men were also charged on Wednesday, October 7.
“After confessing to many of her crimes she has been taken to the high court of Dar es Salaam facing a maximum sentence of 20-30 years imprisonment,” says the Elephant Action League (EAL,) labeling her ‘the most important ivory trafficker ever arrested in the country.’
“It’s the news that we all have been waiting for, for years”, says Andrea Crosta, co-founder of the EAL.
“Finally, a high profile Chinese trafficker is in jail. Hopefully she can lead us to other major traffickers and corrupt government officials. We must put an end to the time of the untouchables if we want to save the elephant.”
The EAL says Fenglan is a businesswoman from Beijing who first came to Tanzania in 1975 as a translator and quickly became connected in the business community.
“She is connected to various companies abroad, all Chinese-owned, and circulates in the upper echelons of Chinese citizens living and working in Tanzania,” says the EAL in a press release, noting that she is the Vice President and Secretary-General of Tanzania China-Africa Business Council and owner of a large Chinese restaurant in Dar es Salaam.
The elephant population in Tanzania has fallen 60 percent in the last five years alone.
There are currently just over 43,000 elephants left in Tanzania compared with 315,000 in 1979, says Natural Resources and Tourism minister Lazaro Nyalandu.