Tanzania: Poachers Shoot and Kill Do-Gooder Pilot Who Was Trying to Save Elephants.

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http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/02/01/elephant-poachers-pilot-death?cmpid=tpdaily-eml-2016-02-01-C

Poachers Shoot and Kill Do-Gooder Pilot Who Was Trying to Save Elephants

As activists mourn the loss of one of their own, they remain committed to protecting Tanzania’s wildlife.

Samantha Cowan is an associate editor and helms TakePart’s weekend coverage.

Although poachers present a deadly threat to African elephants, they can be just as dangerous for the conservationists attempting to stop them.

British pilot Roger Gower was fatally shot while trying to track down poachers in the Maswa Game Reserve in Tanzania on Friday, The Associated Press reports. The 37-year-old worked as an accountant before earning his pilot’s license in 2004, according to the BBC. Coworker Pratik Patel described him as “a great guy, a great friend, a great pilot” who loved his job.

Working with Texas-based organization the Friedkin Conservation Fund, Gower was on a joint mission with Tanzanian authorities when a group of poachers fired on his helicopter from the ground with AK-47s. His copilot was injured but survived.

“This tragic event again highlights the appalling risk and cost of protecting Tanzania’s wildlife,” Dan Friedkin, chairman of the Friedkin Conservation Fund, said in a statement. “We are profoundly saddened by the loss of our dear friend.”

Tanzanian officials have arrested three suspects in Gower’s death. “The suspects are in the hands of police,” said Jumanne Maghembe, Tanzania’s natural resources and tourism minister, according to The Guardian. “They are cooperating, and soon more people making up the poaching gang will be netted and brought to justice.”

Park rangers also discovered the carcasses of three elephants that were killed by the same group of poachers, according to the AP.

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Demand for ivory in foreign markets such as China has caused the African elephant population to drop dramatically, from 3 million to 5 million elephants populating the continent in the early 1900s to less than 500,000 today. Tanzania has lost more than half its elephant population in just five years, declining from 110,000 elephants in 2009 to fewer than 44,000 elephants in 2014, according to a government survey.

Conservationists fear that if poaching rates are not curbed, African elephants could become extinct within the next 20 years.

While elephants are vital to maintaining local ecosystems, killing off the species would also cause African economies to suffer. Both a decline in the likelihood of catching a glimpse of the remaining elephants and safety concerns prevent tourists from making the trip to Tanzania and other African countries. Tanzanian officials estimate that poaching will cost Africa 3.8 million jobs over the next 10 years if it continues at current rates.

As Gower’s family and friends mourn the loss of the conservationist, the Friedkin Conservation Fund continues its efforts to protecting Tanzania’s wildlife.

“We are committed to honoring Roger and his work,” Friedkin said. “We believe that Roger can best be honored by redoubling our commitment to protect elephants and our priceless wildlife heritage.”

 

 

 

One Response

  1. A Terrible Shame. RIP.

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