A Chinese woman dubbed ‘The Queen of Ivory’ has been arrested and charged with in Tanzania following her involvement in smuggling 706 elephant tusks during the past fourteen years.
Yang Feng Glan, 66, has been under investigation by Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit for several months.
She is alleged to have helped smuggle around $3million (£1.9million) of ivory since 2001, weighing a total of 1.9 tons. She is also suspected of financing the purchase of weapons and vehicles for poaching gangs, as well as bribing officials.
The US-based organisation Elephant Action League described Ms. Feng Glan as “the most notorious ivory trafficker brought to task so far”. She is thought to have connections with high-profile individuals and companies in Africa, Europe and Asia. Authorities claim she was the central figure in an extensive network of poachers and buyers.
The illegal wildlife trade is now worth £12 billion a year, according to the WWF. Tanzania has seen an 88 percent decrease in elephant numbers since it gained independent in 1961 — 60 percent of which have happened since 2009 — putting elephant numbers in the country at just 43,000.
Must of the ivory trade is now thought to operate online. In 2012 it was found that around 63 percent of cross-border ivory trading was taking place on auction sites such as eBay. The trade, which was still active on eBay as recently as last year, is against the auction site’s policy.
According to the Born Free foundation ivory is smuggled, mainly to Asia, in order to make ornaments and jewellery. It is also used medicinally, with many ivory products being used in traditional medicine. Many doctors claim that extracts of ivory, in particular from elephant tusks, can alleviate the affects of poison, treat epilepsy and relieve osteoporosis.
“This is the news we have been waiting for for years,” said Andrea Crosta, co-founder of the Elephant Action League, in a statement. “Finally, a high profile trafficker is in jail. Hopefully, this will lead us to other major traffickers and corrupt government officials. We must put an end to this if we want to save the elephant”.
“Everyone she has been dealing with will now become a target for law enforcement,” he concluded.