In a single decade (1979 to 1989), Africa lost half of its elephants to ivory trade. Up until 2014, the price of a kilo of raw ivory in China tripled to $2,100. Experts say Africa lose 55 elephants every day. Inasmuch as poaching figures are on the decline, there are still pockets of syndicates that participate in the illegal trade. Yang Feng Glan, popular with the moniker ‘Ivory Queen’ is one of them.
A Tanzanian court found Glan guilty of smuggling 860 elephant tusks worth $6.45 million. Glan was sentenced together with Tanzanian accomplices Manase Julius Philemon and Salivius Francis Matembo for 15 years in prison. In line with the Tanzanian Wildlife Protection Act, they will have an additional two years jail term or a fine twice the value of their trade gains. Prosecutors said through court documents that,
“ intentionally did organize, manage and finance a criminal racket by collecting, transporting or exporting and selling government trophies.”
How Yang Feng Glan’s animal poaching in Africa began
In 1975, Glan, 70, came to Tanzania as a translator. She worked with a Chinese company building a railroad from Dar es Salaam to Zambia. According to reports, she is one of the first Chinese to fluently learn Swahili. Yang Feng Glan was so much in love with the country that she named her daughter Feizhou, a Mandarin translation of the word Africa.
In Dar es Salaam, 23 years later (1998) she opened a restaurant. The restaurant quickly became popular among wealthy locals and Chinese expats. However, officials believe it was just a front for her illegal ivory trade. Yang was arrested after a yearlong manhunt on September 28, 2015.
Reactions trailing the arrest of the Ivory Queen
Different groups were in support of Yang’s sentence. The executive director of PAMS Foundation, a nonprofit group supporting the fight against poaching, Krissie Clark lauded the judgment. Clark said,
Country director of WWF, Amani Ngusaru told Reuters that
“ is not punishment enough for the atrocities she committed, by being responsible for the poaching of thousands of elephants in Tanzania.”
Geng Shuang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterates that the Chinese government is against the illegal trade. Shuang told the press,
“The Chinese government asks its citizens overseas to abide by local laws and regulations and will never shield those who violated laws. We support the relevant departments of Tanzania in investigating and trying this case fairly in accordance with law.”
The Chinese government in 2018 banned all trades in ivory or ivory products. Hitherto, China has been the largest global market for ivory. According to the court, the defendants have already filed an appeal.