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 ofa tragedysuch as this you shouldnot forget thattens ofpark rangersof thelocallineage aremurdered on duty every year in theparks and reservesin Africa.
Tanzania haslost 60% ofits elephantssince 2009, Mozambique50% oftheirs.The reason isthe increased demandfrom the growingmiddle class populationin Asia.Unless thedemand is decreasingneversointenseactionfrom theauthorities and organizationsin Africa will probably not help.
A powerfulrejection ofthe ivoryhandling fromseniorpoliticiansin Asiamightchange thesituationbut it hasnot yet come.TheAfrican elephantisundoubtedly headingtowardextinction.