“The Queen of Ivory”, a Chinese national, arrested by a specialized Task Force in Tanzania. To date, she is the most important ivory trafficker ever arrested in the country.
Dar-es-Salaam, 8 October 2015 – A specialized wildlife trafficking unit under Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) arrested a number of high-level Chinese ivory traffickers led by a woman who is now thought to be the most notorious ivory trafficker brought to task so far in the war against elephant poaching. She is believed to be behind the trafficking of a huge quantity of ivory over the last several years.
The woman, now dubbed the “Queen of Ivory”, is a Chinese national named Yang Feng Lan, 66, and has been followed by the Task Force for over a year. She recently disappeared from Tanzania, moving to Uganda, but returned one week ago, when the Task Force swiftly moved and arrested her. After confessing to many of her crimes she has been taken to the high court of Dar es Salaam facing a maximum sentence of 20-30 years imprisonment.
Mrs. Yang Feng Lan is originally from Beijing and is a wealthy woman, owning several properties and many cars. Back in the ’70s, in China, she was the first to graduate in Swahili, the language spoken in Eastern Africa, and she was sent to Tanzania in 1975 as a translator for Tazara, when China started to help build the railway. According to the first information collected by the Task Force she has been trafficking ivory since at least 2006, working with the most high-ranking poachers in the country and in the region. She is connected to various companies abroad, all Chinese-owned, and circulates in the upper echelons of Chinese citizens living and working in Tanzania.
Mrs. Feng Lan (also spelled Fenglan) is the Vice President and Secretary-General of Tanzania China-Africa Business Council, and owns the biggest Chinese restaurant at Dar es Salaam station.
Tanzania has been the ground zero of elephant poaching in East Africa for the past several years, having lost 85,000 elephants between 2009 and 2014, according to a recent elephant census in the country. A slaughter of industrial proportion such as this cannot have happened without the involvement of high profile, corrupt individuals and government officials at the two ports of Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar, and elsewhere in civil society.
“It’s the news that we all have been waiting for, for years”, commented Mr. Andrea Crosta, co-founder of the Elephant Action League and WildLeaks. “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”.
“Everyone she has been dealing with will now become a target for law enforcement,” concludes Crosta.