Helicopter pilot killed by poachers

10/02/2016 17:49

January 28 Roger Gower, a 37-year-old British helicopter pilot, was killed in Maswa Game Reserve which is a buffer zone along the Serengeti's southwest border. Gower worked for US-based Friedkin Conservation Fund cooperating with the Tanzanian authorities against poaching in the country.

Gower and a South African colleague were called to an area where land patrols heard gunfire. When they discovered a fresh elephant carcasses with tusks they understood that poachers must still be there and went down to a lower altitude. They were then shot with automatic weapons and Gower seriously wounded. His colleague managed to jump out of the plane and hide until the land patrol arrived. Gower was then dead.

The incident has shocked Tanzania and led to actions in all parks and reserves. The culprits were found and arrested after a few days and proved to be people from nearby areas as part of criminal networks. Scores of ultra-modern weapons were found but the pursuit of criminal networks continues.

In the midst of a tragedy such as this you should not forget that tens of park rangers of the local lineage are murdered on duty every year in the parks and reserves in Africa.

Tanzania has lost 60% of its elephants since 2009, Mozambique 50% of theirs. The reason is the increased demand from the growing middle class population in Asia. Unless the demand is decreasing never so intense action from the authorities and organizations in Africa will probably not help.

A powerful rejection of the ivory handling from senior politicians in Asia might change the situation but it has not yet come. The African elephant is undoubtedly heading toward extinction.

Roger Gower (right)