Chinese woman has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in Tanzania for being the mastermind behind the smuggling of hundreds of elephant tusks from Africa to East Asia.
Yang Fenglan, who has been given the nickname “Ivory Queen,” was convicted on Tuesday on charges relating to the smuggling of 860 tusks worth around $5.5 million. The 70-year-old has been living in Tanzania since the 1970s where she owned a Chinese restaurant and even served as vice-president of the China-Africa Business Council of Tanzania.
After establishing important connections, Yang became involved in ivory smuggling in the 2000s, serving as a key link between East Asian poachers and Chinese buyers. She was arrested in 2015.
Tanzania is considered to be the largest source of poached ivory in the world and rampant poaching has devastated the native elephant population over the last decade. Just between 2009 and 2014, the country lost around 85,000 elephants, equating to the slaughter of about 60 percent of the population.
Meanwhile, China has long been the largest importer of smuggled tusks, which are used medicinally and also as decoration as displays of wealth. While the country banned the ivory trade in 2018, the material remains available in antique markets and on the black market.