Authorities in China have arrested 16 suspected members of an ivory smuggling operation, while also seizing hundreds of pounds of ivory. Also obtained from the operation were rhinoceros horns and bear paws.
Police in Beijing stated that the arrests come as a result of an investigation concerning the illicit trade and transport of wildlife products that took place from May to August of this year. Along with the arrests, police obtained 1,770 pounds of ivory, 24 pounds of rhino horns and 35 bear paws.
Estimates show that the total value of these animal goods is more than $3.8 million.
According to reports, ivory was illegally smuggled from Japan to mainland China, which is the largest market in the world for illegal ivory. The illegal trade has been largely able to exist, as criminals often claim that they are trading legal ivory, which is allowed in China.
Japan has been selling legally owned ivory and rhino horns since before the 1980s. However, the popularity of ivory in Japan has been in decline.
The country says that it is taking action to fight against ivory trafficking and put a stop to illegal ivory sales. The thriving ivory trade in China has put the African elephant in serious danger of becoming extinct. Earlier this year in February, the country placed a one-year ban on the import of ivory. Also, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised last month to eventually put a stop to the commercial sale of ivory.
The 16 suspects who were arrested were detained by Chinese forest police, which investigates crimes regarding wildlife in the areas of Beijing, Hebei, Guangdong, Shandong and other places in China.
The news of the arrests comes after authorities in Tanzania recently arrested Yang Feng Clan, a 66 year old Chinese woman who has been accused of leading an operation that had smuggled nearly 2 tons of ivory between 200 and 2014.
Yang Feng Clan is often referred to by her nickname, the “Queen of Ivory”.