Yang Fenglan, 69, a Chinese trafficker known as the “ivory queen” has been sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Tanzanian court for smuggling 860 pieces of ivory worth $5.6 million between 2000 and 2004. Yang moved to Tanzania in the 1970s and has lived in the country on and off since then, operating a Chinese restaurant and working as a translator. The court found her and two other men — Salivius Matembo and Manase Philemon — guilty of “leading an organized criminal gang,” according to Reuters.
Yang and the two men were initially charged in 2015, following a high speed car chase arrest, according to BBC. The three denied the charges at the time but have since been found to be responsible for “transporting or exporting and selling” ivory, linking poachers in East Africa and buyers in China.
While there is high demand for ivory in China, the country faced pressure from environmental groups and finally banned the domestic sale of ivory in 2018.
“We do not shield the illegal activities of Chinese citizens, and support the relevant Tanzanian authority’s just investigation of and trying of this case in accordance with the law,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a news briefing in Beijing, according to Reuters.
While wildlife organizations are for the most part pleased with the outcome of this case, many believe the consequences are not enough.
“[It] is not punishment enough for the atrocities she committed, by being responsible for the poaching of thousands of elephants in Tanzania,” World Wildlife Fund country director Amani Ngusaru said to Reuters. “She ran a network that killed thousands of elephants.”
Yang will serve her sentence at the Ukonga Prison in Dar es Salaam.