Two Chinese nationals were yesterday sentenced to 30 years in jail by a court in Tanzania after being found guilty of possessing 707 pieces of ivory.
Xu Fujie and Huang Qin were given the choice of imprisonment or paying a record Sh100.7 billion ($46 million) fine, which local publication The Citizen says is “one of the heaviest sentences aimed at curbing the illegal trade.”
The magistrate in charge of court proceedings reportedly had to adjourn the court session half way through pronouncing the judgement after Xu almost fainted in shock at the court’s decision.
The poachers entered the country in 2010 and stayed for three years before they were arrested in Dar es Salaam. The pair were also convicted of attempting to bribe the police and government officials with Sh30.2 million (almost $14,000).
“Considering the evidence adduced in court and the huge loss that the nation has suffered for the killing of 226 elephants, it is obvious that the accused are a real threat to the elephant generation within the boundaries of our country,” said the magistrate.
Following their arrest in 2013, Xu and Huang tried to play innocent, claiming they had nothing to do with ivory smuggling were merely storing the ivory for their friends. This excuse apparently didn’t go down well with authorities.
The good news for the elephants is that since a deal was struck last year between China and the US to ban the ivory trade, prices for the commodity have plummeted. This in turn has led to a reduction in the number of poachers.
China is the world’s largest consumer of ivory (the US is a close second) where it is used medicinally and for decorative displays of wealth.
[Image via The Citizen]