Boniface Matthew Mariango is believed to be at the head of several poaching syndicates.
Image via Wikimedia Commons user Paul Mannix
Tanzania’s elephants are a little safer this week, after the country’s authorities captured “The Devil.” 45-year-old Boniface Matthew Mariango (nickname: Shetani, or The Devil) was wanted for managing up to 15 criminal poaching and ivory-trafficking syndicates. After evading capture several times, as CNN reports, Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit Task Force finally cornered Mariango in Dar es Salaam on October 29.
The Elephant Action League reports that Mariango is “the most prolific elephant poacher and ivory trafficker in East Africa” and is “directly responsible for the killing of thousands of elephants over the past years.”
It was Tanzania’s second major wildlife-trafficking arrest in October. On the 9th, authorities arrested Yang Feng Glan, the “Queen of Ivory,” also in Dar es Salaam. She’s charged with smuggling 706 elephant tusks over the past decade.
“It is extremely encouraging to see bigger fish and not just the low-level poachers being caught,” Kathleen Garrigan, media relations manager for the African Wildlife Foundation, told TakePart. “Ultimately if we are going to dismantle these international trafficking syndicates, we have to remove the middlemen and bring down the kingpins.”
An elephant skull with tusks removed by poachers, via Wikimedia Commons user Ina96
The poaching arrests come at an auspicious time for the East African country. A survey released in June found that Tanzania’s elephant population declined by a staggering 60 percent between 2009 and 2014. Illegal poaching is most responsible for the widespread death of Tanzania’s elephants, who were killed to feed a renewed Chinese demand for ivory.
Scientists who worked on the survey said the Tanzanian landscape was dotted with elephant carcasses. “I had never seen anything like that—there were carcasses everywhere, whole family groups on their sides, between three and seven animals, wiped out,” researcher Howard Frederick told The Telegraph.
Conservation groups have accused Tanzania of “turning a blind eye” to poaching because the underground activity is an important part of the country’s tourism industry.