February 14, 2017 / 12:01 PM / 6 months ago

Tanzanian couple jailed over haul of poached ivory

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - A Tanzanian court has sentenced a married couple to 20 years in jail each for illegal possession of 210 pieces of ivory from nearly 100 poached elephants, the government said on Tuesday.Peter and Leonida Loi Kabi, who pleaded not guilty, were sentenced on Monday.

"The tusks weighing 450.6 kg along with five pieces of elephant bones representing the slaughter of 93 elephants were found at the home of the convicted persons," the Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry said in a statement.Famed for safaris on the Serengeti plains and home to Africa's highest mountain Kilimanjaro, Tanzania relies on revenues from tourism and wildlife safaris but has been blighted by poachers chasing ivory, mostly sold in Asia.

President John Magufuli ordered security forces in October to hunt the criminals who finance poaching networks.

Tanzania's elephant population shrank from 110,000 in 2009 to about 43,000 in 2014, according to census results. Conservationists blame industrial-scale poaching. The population of rhinos, classified as endangered, has also fallen.

Prosecutors in 2015 charged Chinese businesswoman Yang Feng Glan, 66, dubbed the "Ivory Queen", with running a network that smuggled tusks from at least 350 elephants. She denies the charges in the ongoing court case.

(Story corrects to make clear Tanzania relies on tourism in paragraph 4)

Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Edmund Blair and Angus MacSwan

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