African elephants are slightly safer, now that Yang Fenglan, a Chinese businesswoman who earned the nickname “Ivory Queen,” has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for smuggling tusks.
According to the BBC, Yang and two Tanzanian men operated one of the continent’s biggest ivory-smuggling rings. Authorities estimate they’ve smuggled $3.5 million (£1.9m) worth of tusks from 400 elephants.
Yang was convicted of smuggling around 800 pieces of ivory between 2000 and 2014 from Tanzania to the Far East. Her two Tanzanian colleagues were also jailed for 15 years on similar charges. The court in Dar es Salaam ordered Yang’s property to be repossessed.
An investigation into Yang was launched in 2014. One year later, she was arrested following a high-speed car chase. At the time of her arrest, Yang was a prominent businesswoman. She operated a Chinese restaurant, as well as an investment company in Tanzania’s largest city.
Yang is fluent in Swahili, a byproduct of living in the African country since the 1970s. At one point, she served as vice-president of the China-Africa Business Council of Tanzania. Because she was a pivotal player in the illegal ivory trade, environmentalists are supportive of her arrest.
According to the International Union for Conservation (IUCN), poaching has resulted in the population of African elephants falling from 415,000 to 110,000 over the last ten years. If the illegal ivory trade continues, the pachyderms may be wiped out completely.
China and East Asia are largely to blame for the illicit trade. In these regions, ivory is used to make jewelry and ornaments.
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IMAGE CREDIT1: Pixabay
IMAGE CREDIT2: Kaspars Grinvalds