Tanzanian officials last week announced the arrest of a Chinese businesswoman they described as the “most important ivory trafficker ever arrested in the country.”
The woman, who is being called the “Queen of Ivory,” is 66-year-old Yang Feng Lan, who allegedly led a ring of traffickers. Her arrest is seen as a major victory in the war against elephant poachers.
Authorities said she was responsible for trafficking in “huge amounts” of ivory during the past several years.
The businesswoman is originally from Beijing, but moved to Tanzania in 1975 as a translator.
She had recently moved to Uganda, but returned to Tanzania a week ago and was promptly arrested, according to the non-profit group Elephant Action League.
“It’s the news that we all have been waiting for, for years”, said Andrea Crosta, co-founder of Elephant Action League and elephant conservation group WildLeaks in a statement. “Finally, a high profile Chinese trafficker is in jail. Hopefully she can lead us to other major traffickers and corrupt government officials. We must put an end to the time of the untouchables if we want to save the elephant.”
The businesswoman allegedly began trafficking at least as far back as 2006. A news release from Elephant Action League said she has confessed to her crimes and could face a sentence of 20 to 30 years.
Tanzania has been a center of elephant poaching for several years, having lost 85,000 elephants between 2009 and 2014, according to the Elephant Action League.