Minnesota Professor Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Ivory Into The U.S.

A philosophy professor pleaded guilty to trafficking in rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory into the United States.

Credit: timeslive.co.za

Credit: timeslive.co.za

On January 13th, Yiwei Zheng, a 43-year-old professor of philosophy in Minnesota, pleaded guilty to trafficking in rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory into the United States.

The actions, according to the prosecutors, are in violation of U.S. laws that protect endangered species.

Zheng, who was a professor at St. Cloud State University, was accused of importing and exporting horns and ivory as well as objects made from ivory, by acquiring the items through online auctions. He would then sell them to buyers in China.

As a result of his actions, Zheng could be sentenced up to ten years in prison and fined $500,000. His sentencing is schedule for May 9, 2016, in Minneapolis, reports Reuters.

As was recently reported, it is against the law in the United States to import, export, purchase, and/or sell endangered species and their parts.

The professor pleaded guilty to smuggling ivory into the U.S. in 2011, knowing that he was in violation of the law all along.

According to the prosecutors, it is important to raise awareness about the dangerous operations and the people behind them to help stop the illegal practice.

Said Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Provinzino in a statement:

“Cases like this are important to curb the market for rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory to help ensure the survival of those species across the globe.”

Zheng was caught after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Chicago identified a parcel in May 2011 that Zheng was shipping to Shanghai at a listed value of $35. A wildlife inspector found that the package contained carvings from ivory and investigators later revealed that they were worth nearly $7,000. 

This wasn’t his first offense, but hopefully, it will be his last.

Though the ivory trade is largely curbed globally, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an estimated 100,000 African elephants were killed by poachers between 2010 and 2012, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences.

If more isn’t done to dissolve the poaching, the African elephant may go extinct within the next decade, say experts.

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