Posted on 20 February 2019
20 February 2019, Tanzania: WWF has welcomed a landmark ruling by Tanzania’s Courts yesterday sentencing Yang Fenglan, a Chinese National charged with trafficking 860 ivory tusks weighing almost 1.9 tonnes over a 14-year period to 15 years in prison.
Yang Fenglan was regarded as the ‘ivory queen’ because of her role in smuggling ivory out of Tanzania to international ivory buyers supplying consumers in Asia. The long-awaited verdict follows a new approach by Tanzanian authorities of using intelligence-led law enforcement work implemented by the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit that targets all levels of wildlife crime from the poachers and traffickers to the high-level buyers.
In response to the verdict, Amani Ngusaru, WWF Country Director, Tanzania says: “This long awaited verdict signals a renewed impetus by the Tanzanian authorities to tackle head-on the poaching of elephants and ending the illegal trade in ivory. We commend the coordination between Tanzanian law enforcement particularly the police and intelligence agencies as well as the criminal justice system for successfully securing a conviction in this landmark case. Looking forward, this ruling gives a morale boost to our men and women working in the frontlines of protecting our natural capital.”
Dr Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Practice Leader, Wildlife comments: “The conviction sends out a strong and clear message, not just to ivory poachers in Tanzania but to smuggling rings, middlemen, ivory traders and all actors across the trafficking chain globally that Tanzanians will not tolerate the wanton decimation of their elephant populations, one of the symbols of their national heritage. In January last year, China officially closed its domestic ivory market, a move that is augmenting Tanzania’s efforts to end the poaching crisis. WWF is working in partnership with governments, international law enforcement agencies, businesses, other conservation NGOs and international organizations in order to drive change at the scale needed to stamp out the illegal trade in ivory.”
As one of the country’s most infamous ivory traffickers, Yang Fenglan had links with the notorious elephant poacher Boniface Matthew Mariango. Mariango was arrested in 2015 after a year-long manhunt and sentenced to 12 years in prison on 3 March 2017.
Tanzania lost 60% of its elephants in just five years, with numbers crashing from 109,000 in 2009 to just 43,000 in 2014. The Selous Game Reserve, a World Heritage site, has lost almost 90% of its elephants over the last 40 years with only an estimated 15,217 left by the end of 2014.