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Tanzania cops charge Chinese woman with smuggling ivory

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Dar es Salaam – A Chinese woman has been charged in a Tanzanian court with smuggling nearly 1.9 tons of ivory as wildlife activists applauded the move by Tanzanian authorities to crack down on the illegal ivory trade, which has devastated the elephant population in just a few years.

Businesswoman Yang Feng Clan, 66, was charged on Wednesday in Dar es Salaam alongside two Tanzanian men. The three suspects allegedly committed the crime between January 1, 2000 and May 22, 2014. Their case was adjourned to Monday.

According to the Tanzanian government, the elephant population has plummeted from an estimated 109 051 in 2009 to 43 330 in 2014.

“Tanzania has been the ground zero of elephant poaching in East Africa for the past several years. … 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,” conservation group the Elephant Action League said in a statement on Thursday

The group said that a specialized wildlife trafficking unit under Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit made the arrests. “It’s the news that we all have been waiting for, for years”, said Andrea Crosta, co-founder of the Elephant Action League and WildLeaks.

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In February, China imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports that took immediate effect amid criticism that its citizens’ huge appetite for ivory has fuelled poaching that threatens the existence of African elephants.

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