A notorious elephant poacher and ivory trafficker has been arrested by Tanzanian law enforcement authorities after a manhunt that lasted for over one year, according to NGO Elephant Action League.

Boniface Matthew Mariango, 45, nicknamed “The Devil” or “Shetani” (in Kiswahili), was arrested by the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) said the NGO. NTSCIU is the law enforcement body that was also responsible for the arrest of the infamous “Queen of Ivory” Yang Feng Glan earlier this month.

“The Devil” behind bars in Tanzania. Photo: Terra Mater Factual Studios.

Mariango, ivory kingpin of East Africa, managed over 15 poaching syndicates in Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, Mozambique and southern Kenya with impunity for years, and is directly responsible for the killing of thousands of elephants.

“This arrest is yet another substantial breakthrough in Tanzania’s anti-poaching and anti-trafficking efforts, with implications also reaching into neighbouring countries. Finally, we see big fishes getting caught in the law enforcement net,” said Andrea Crosta, co-founder of the Elephant Action League and the WildLeaks initiative, a US based organisation that investigates wildlife crime around the world.

Ivory trade in East Africa during the 1880s and 1890s. Photo: Wikicommons.

According to an elephant census, Tanzania lost around 85,000 elephants to poaching between 2009 and 2014. Wildlife conservationists say that the massive Chinese demand for ivory fuels poaching in Africa, and a report by World Wildlife Fund Hong Kong last month said Hong Kong, with the world’s largest retail ivory market, also contributes to this.

Ivory imports have been illegal in Hong Kong since 1990, however smuggling of ivory from Africa remains prevalent due to an ineffective regulatory system. In September, four attempts of the import of ivory into Hong Kong occurred before they were seized by customs officials at the airport.

Tanzanian Elephant. Photo: Schuyler Shepherd.

Earlier this year, the Chinese State Forestry Administration imposed a one-year ban on the import of ivory. During President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK earlier this month, Duke of Cambridge Prince William recorded a speech for Chinese state media on illegal ivory trade.

“After these high profile arrests in Tanzania and the commitment to ban ivory by US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their respective countries, I can finally say that there is hope for the elephants,” said Crosta. “But let’s keep fighting,” he added.

Medhavi Arora is in her final year at the University of Hong Kong studying Journalism and International Relations. Her print, video and multimedia pieces have been featured in the Times of India and CNN-IBN. She is a former intern at UN Women and has additional experience in sustainability, international affairs and communications.