Seventeen people have been jailed for smuggling ivory, made from elephant tusks, from West Africa to China. Two men identified as “ring leaders” were jailed for life, which activists call one of the toughest sentences to date for ivory smuggling.
Fifteen others were given sentences ranging from two to fifteen years. They received their sentence in a court in the city of Guangzhou. The group had also smuggled and sold rare rhino horns.
“Under China’s Criminal Law, individuals found guilty of smuggling rare animal products are usually given a five to ten year prison sentence,” Li Zongsheng, a lawyer who has campaigned for stricter wildlife protection laws, said.
“The two life sentences given in this case is quite unusual, indicating authorities are coming down hard on illegal ivory traders,” Zongsheng said.
Demand for ivory in China led to a poaching crisis across Africa, and although there’s a ban on ivory trade in China since 2018, a big black market still exists.
More than 20,000 elephants were killed annually for their tusks before the 2018 ban, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.