A huge international effort, comprising Interpol, conservationist groups and African governments, has mounted a concerted campaign in recent years to infiltrate and expose the Asian wildlife crime networks.
In Tanzania, in particular, it was highly dangerous work. Wayne Lotter, a South African conservationist group that funded and backed the operation to capture Fenlan, was shot dead by a suspected hitman in Dar es Salaam in 2017. The previous year, a British pilot, Roger Gower, was killed by poachers who fired at his helicopter as it approached an elephant carcass in the Maswa Game Reserve.
Despite the human cost, the operation has had an impact. Elephant poaching has fallen significantly since Fenlan’s arrest. China, which banned the domestic trade in ivory last year, has also mounted operations against the crime syndicates.
The China Customs Anti-Smuggling Bureau, acting on information provided by Britain’s Environmental Investigation Agency, raided and dismantled a major ivory smuggling network in the Chinese town of Shuidong last year. Chinese authorities announced the arrest of the last of the group’s three leaders last month.
“I think that if this kind of pressure both within China and here in Africa can be maintained we will see a different landscape in the future,” Mr Milliken said.