Nairobi, Feb 20 – A Tanzanian court has convicted Chinese citizen Yang Fenglan, who is popularly known as the “Ivory Queen”, on charges of running an ivory smuggling ring and her sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Yang, 69, and two Tanzanian accomplices, Salivius Matembo and Manase Philemon, were found guilty of unlawful dealing in ivory for collecting, selling and transporting more than 706 pieces of elephant tusks weighing 1,889 kilograms in 2014, according to conservation charity Wildlife Direct.
Conservationists estimate that Tanzania lost 100,000 elephants to poachers over the past decade.
Yang, a prominent member of the Chinese community in Tanzania, is believed to have been the ringleader of a gang of ivory smugglers that operated in the country for more than a decade, according to Wildlife Direct. She was reportedly the point person linking poachers in East Africa with ivory buyers in Asia.
“We welcome today’s (February 19) ruling which sends a clear message that no ivory poacher will escape justice and that the days of high profile traffickers are numbered,” said Paula Kahumbu, CEO, Wildlife Direct.
Wildlife Direct urged Kenya to intensify efforts to arrest six of its nationals on INTERPOL’s most wanted list for various crimes, including ivory trafficking. Among those listed are two brothers, Nicholas and Samuel Jefwa, said to be the masterminds of Kenya’s largest illegal ivory export. They remain at large five years after warrants for their arrest were issued.