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Yang Fenglan (centre), seen here as she entered court at the start of her trial in 2016, has been dubbed the 'Ivory Queen' for her role in trafficking (AFP Photo/Said KHALFAN)

Nairobi (AFP) - A Tanzanian court on Tuesday sentenced a Chinese woman dubbed the "Ivory Queen" to 15 years in jail for her role in trafficking tusks from more than 400 elephants.

Yang Fenlan, 69, was convicted in Dar es Salaam of trafficking 860 tusks between 2000 and 2014, a haul representing the slaughter of dozens of herds of elephants.

Two Tanzanian men were also found guilty for their role in the illegal commerce. They were also sentenced to 15 years each.

"The prosecution proved the case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt," Judge Huruma Shaidi told the court.

The prosecution showed the two men had collected elephant tusks across Tanzania, bringing them to Frenlan.

"The testimonies proved that all three accused worked hand in hand," Shaidi said.

The trio were also ordered to pay a joint fine of 13 million dollars (11.5 million euros) -- roughly equivalent to twice the market value of the ivory they profited from -- or face an additional two years in jail.

Defence lawyers said they would appeal.

Wildlife campaigners have called it one of the most important cases for several years.

Fenlan, who has lived in the East African nation since the 1970s, was convicted of organising a smuggling ring between Tanzania and Asia.

When she was arrested in 2015 she was vice president of the China-Africa Business Council of Tanzania.

Poaching has seen the population of African elephants fall by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The slaughter is being fuelled especially by demand in Asia, where ivory is used for jewellery and ornamentation.

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