NAIROBI — They call her the Queen of Ivory – a 66-year-old Chinese woman who became famous for her role in Africa’s illegal wildlife trade. Over 15 years, she helped smuggle more than 700 elephant tusks out of Africa, officials said Thursday. But as authorities closed in, Yang Feng Glan managed to evade arrest.

Until now.

Yang was detained in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam after a high-speed chase and is apparently the most prominent Chinese national charged with wildlife trafficking in Africa. The short, bespectacled owner of a well-known Chinese restaurant doesn’t fit the image of a poaching kingpin, but that’s exactly what she is, Tanzanian officials say.

Yang was behind an illicit trade worth millions of dollars, using her ties to the Chinese and Tanzanian elite to move ivory across the world, officials said. Ivory trafficking has resulted in immense damage to wildlife across Africa, but particularly in Tanzania. From 2009 to 2014, the country’s elephant population plummeted from 109,051 to 43,330.

“She was at the center of that killing,” said Andrea Crosta, executive director of Elephant Action League, a U.S.-based environmental watchdog group.

China’s role in Africa’s poaching crisis is no secret. The country consumes tons of ivory every year, much of it mixed into holistic medicine with no proven value. That demand has driven low-level poachers across the continent to massacre elephant and rhino populations. But the role played by Chinese business people based in Africa has been hazy.

Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit identified Yang more than a year ago and followed her role in the smuggling network, authorities said. They found that she was using her restaurant in downtown Dar es Salaam as a cover, sneaking ivory from outside of the city into food shipments that went to the kitchen, they said.

At the end of the high-speed chase, Tanzanian law enforcement agents got their first up-close look at the woman they referred to as the Queen of Ivory. She was out of breath after running from them.

“That is the shark we were chasing,” a Tanzanian official said.

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