Ivory Smuggler Known as “The Ivory Queen” Arrested in Tanzania
Yang Fen Glan, also known as “the Ivory Queen,” has been sentenced to 15 years in Tanzanian Prison. She has been charged with smuggling 860 elephant tusks worth $6.45 Million. The government is accusing her of conspiring to, “organize, manage and finance a criminal racket by collecting, transporting or exporting and selling government trophies.” Yang is likely to appeal to the charges being brought against her by the government. It is unknown whether or not this would have any standing in court.
Her charges come after an attempted crackdown on the part of the Tanzanian government on poachers in the region.
Poaching in Tanzania has been a problem for over 40 years, but between 2009 and 2014 there has been a 60% population drop of the elephants in Tanzania, from 110,000 elephants to 43,000. This drastic rise of poaching in recent years has been caused by a large demand for ivory from East Asia, specifically China.
Yeng Fen Glan herself was the former Secretary-General of the Tanzania Africa-China business council. She first arrived as a translator for a Chinese infrastructure investment project in the 1970s and is fluent in Swahili. Yang is even the owner and operator of a popular Chinese restaurant in Dar Es Salaam, the nation's capital. Prosecutors believe that she used this business as a front and a way to aid in the smuggling of the ivory.
She was arrested alongside her two Tanzanian business partners that have also both been charged to 15 years in prison. These arrests are part of a growing trend on the part of the Tanzanian government of cracking down on ivory smugglers. In 2015 four Chinese men were charged to 20 years in prison only one year later two more men were charged to 35 years. A representative from PAMS a local non-profit which works to try to end poaching and smuggling said the following of the recent developments, “The government is taking wildlife trafficking very seriously, and an attack on Tanzania’s wildlife is seen as an attack on Tanzania.”
The arrest of Yang shows that there indeed seems to be a growing movement within the government to stan up to poachers. However, there have been many critics of the move on the part of the government believing that it does not go far enough. Though conservation groups have welcomed the move, as a way to bolster morale they also warn that the sentence should be much harsher. Amani Ngasaru country director of the WWF said the following, “(It) is not punishment enough for the atrocities she committed, by being responsible for the poaching of thousands of elephants in Tanzania.” What is clear is that the Ivory Queen is facing serious charges and this could be a turning point in the fight against poaching.