Elephant poachers kill British helicopter pilot in Tanzania

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British helicopter pilot Roger Gower
British helicopter pilot Roger Gower died after being shot down by poachers. Photo: Tropic Air Kenya

British helicopter pilot Roger Gower has been shot at and killed by elephant poachers in Tanzania, The Friedkin Conservation Fund have said.

Wreckage of Capt Roger's crashed helicopter
Wreckage of Capt Roger’s crashed helicopter. He was shot down and killed by a poacher with an AK 47. Photo: Facebook/WildlifeAt RiskInternational

Poachers shot and killed Capt Gower, a Tropic Air Kenya pilot, during a mission to help Rangers find killers of an elephant at Maswa Game Reserve near the Serengeti National Park yesterday (29 January).

Wreckage of Capt Roger's crashed helicopter
Wreckage of Capt Roger’s crashed helicopter. He was shot down and killed by a poacher with an AK 47. Photo: Facebook/WildlifeAt RiskInternational

Captain Gower, a former accountant who qualified as a pilot in 2004, was assisting authorities in Tanzania to track the criminals when elephant poachers fired on his aircraft.

Despite being shot in mid air by poachers AK47, he managed to land his chopper but died before he could be rescued.

Wreckage of Capt Roger's crashed helicopter
Wreckage of Capt Roger’s crashed helicopter. He was shot down and killed by a poacher with an AK 47. Photo: Facebook/WildlifeAt RiskInternational

In addition to pilot-guiding many helicopter safaris and excursions, Roger had been the key pilot allocated to supporting the British Army battle groups in Northern Kenya, with tasks that included clearing live firing ranges, and carrying out medical evacuations. He had been in East Africa since 2008.

In a message posted on The Friedkin Conservation Fund website, founder Dan Friedkin wrote:

“January 29, 2016 we lost our colleague Roger Gower who was killed in the fight against elephant poaching in Tanzania. We are profoundly saddened by the loss of our dear friend.

“Roger was killed while piloting a helicopter during a coordinated effort with the Tanzanian wildlife authorities to track down and arrest active elephant poachers. In the course of this action the poachers fired upon the helicopter and Roger was fatally wounded.

“We are committed to honoring Roger and his work. We are also committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack are found and brought to justice. We believe that Roger can best be honored by redoubling our commitment to protect elephants and our priceless wildlife heritage.

“This tragic event again highlights the appalling risk and cost of protecting Tanzania¹s wildlife.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We can confirm the death of a British national in Tanzania and are providing assistance to the family at this difficult time.”

Wreckage of Capt Roger's crashed helicopter
Wreckage of Capt Roger’s crashed helicopter. He was shot down and killed by a poacher with an AK 47. Photo: Facebook/WildlifeAt RiskInternational

Tanzanian MP Lazaro Nyalandu, a former minister for natural resources and tourism, Tweeted that the pilot was a “fine hearted individual gone too soon.”

“RIP Capt Roger. You loved our country and I knew you on many flights we took together in defence of our wildlife heritage. Life is precious.

“Those poachers who killed Capt Roger are coward, evil, and sad people.

“Capt Roger’s body was flown into Arusha early today, as those who killed him are still at large.Everything must be done to bring them to justice.” – Lazaro Nyalandu via Twitter

Wildlife at Risk International said on its Facebook page: “A huge manhunt is underway involving several organisations assisting authorities to track down this coldblooded murderer. For security reasons no further details are being released for now due to the ongoing investigation.”

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