Tanzania arrests queen of ivory in major blow against wildlife crime

Posted on 08 October 2015

Chinese woman charged with trafficking 706 tusks over 14 years
The Tanzanian authorities have struck a major blow against elephant poaching and ivory smuggling by arresting one of the country’s most infamous alleged ivory traffickers. 
Regarded as the ‘queen of ivory’, Yang Feng Glan has been charged with smuggling and trafficking 706 ivory tusks weighing almost 1.9 tonnes over a 14-year period.
“Tanzania’s elephants have long been an easy target for poachers and traffickers, but this arrest shows that the days when ivory kingpins were untouchable are coming to an end,” said Amani Ngusaru, WWF Tanzania Country Director.
“The establishment of special multi-agency task force units to deal with environmental crimes in Tanzania is starting to pay off,” added Ngusaru.
Yang was arrested along with two Tanzanian men, Salvius Matembo and Manase Philemon. All three of them were also charged with involvement in organized crime. They have not yet entered a plea.
“The arrest of the ‘queen of ivory’ will send shockwaves through the organized criminal networks driving the global poaching crisis: law enforcement agencies are now targeting the kingpins behind the illegal wildlife trade not just the foot soldiers,” said Elisabeth McLellan, WWF co-head, Wildlife Crime Initiative.
But arresting Yang, who is alleged to have been one of the main links between poachers in Tanzania and international ivory buyers supplying consumers in Asia, is just the start since many criminal gangs are involved.
Tanzania lost 60% of its elephants in just five years, with numbers crashing from 109,000 in 2009 to just 43,000 in 2014.
“This arrest is a major success, but the authorities cannot stop now: they must quickly roll up the rest of this criminal network and focus on other kingpins or the killing of Tanzania’s elephants will continue,” said Ngusaru.
And Tanzania cannot succeed alone.
“Tanzania has shown the way, China and other countries must now follow this game-changing arrest by breaking up the international criminal web that she was allegedly feeding with Tanzanian ivory for 14 years,” said McLellan. “Tanzania has dealt a serious blow to wildlife crime in the country, but only concerted international action can halt it in the long run.”
These arrests come just a week after another Chinese woman, Li Ling Ling, and four Tanzanians were charged with smuggling ivory to Switzerland – showing how much the risk has recently increased for wildlife criminals in Tanzania.

It also send a message to the law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, which confiscated the ivory but let the three Chinese couriers return home.

“Tanzania has proven how wrong the authorities in Switzerland were to let three Chinese traffickers go scot free earlier this year: hopefully the Swiss authorities will not make the same mistake again,” said McLellan.
Ivory from at least 500 elephants seized in Tanzania.
African elephant (Loxodonta africana), Tanzania.
© naturepl.com /Edwin Giesbers / WWF
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