Picture a member of a crime syndicate and what do you think of? Some guy with a slick suit? Gold chain? How about a poacher? A poor guy from a village with little clothes to his name?
Well throw out those stereotypes. A few months ago a 66 year old Chinese woman nicknamed the “Queen of Ivory” was arrested in Tanzania and charged with smuggling at least 706 elephant tusks that authorities say are worth about $2.5 million.
Yang Feng Glan, is thought to be the most notorious ivory trafficker arrested in East Africa in the last decade. She ran a sophisticated supply chain between East Africa and China for about 10 years, Tanzanian authorities say. And many of her suppliers were also arrested.
Glan is thought to have come to Tanzania as a Swahili-Chinese translator in 1975 and she is believed to have begun trafficking ivory as far back as 2006. Claiming her business was running a Chinese restaurant in Dar Es Salaam and serving as secretary general of the Tanzania-China Africa Business Council it is alleged that this was all a front for her real occupation Ivory smuggler kingpin.
She is still in Tanzanian prison as her bail was denied. One of the reasons it may have been denied was that when her house was surrounded she jumped in her car and led police on a car chase in Dar (which is amazing that something like that could happen given the traffic there).
And while her trial has not happened yet I plan to follow this very carefully and hopefully raise my glass as a toast to Tanzania’s new specialized wildlife trafficking unit, which has arrested at least one wildlife trafficker per day since its inception, to celebrate this woman never seeing the outside of a prison for the rest of her life.