Tanzania arrests after UK pilot killed

Roger GowerImage copyright
Tropic Air Kenya

Image caption

Roger Gower was tracking poachers in the Maswa Game Reserve in northern Tanzania

Tanzanian police have arrested three suspects over the death of a British helicopter pilot whose aircraft was shot at by elephant poachers.

Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Jumanne Maghembe told AFP news agency that those detained were co-operating.

“Soon more people making up the poaching gang will be netted and brought to justice,” he said.

Roger Gower had been flying near the body of an elephant killed by poachers when his helicopter came under fire.

The incident happened in Maswa Game Reserve, which borders the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania.

Mr Gower managed to land his helicopter, but died before he could be rescued, a Tanzanian MP and former minister for natural resources and tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, said in a tweet.

A spokesman for Tanzania’s national parks, Pascal Shelutete, said three elephant carcasses had been found in the area, indicating “that whoever shot the chopper down was on a serious illegal hunting spree”.

He said such poachers can be “heavily armed with sophisticated military weaponry”.

Mr Gower’s brother Max told the BBC: “He would not have gone anywhere near those poachers if he’d known that they were armed.

“As I understand it, he knew they were around but came across them by accident. He didn’t really have enough time to evaluate the situation before they opened fire on him.”

Fun-loving man

Max Gower also said his brother would be remembered as “very much his own man”.

“He had a very strong moral compass. He just loved having fun, he couldn’t be with his friends without making sure that everybody had fun.”

The Friedkin Conservation Fund, for which Mr Gower had been working, said the organisation had lost “a dear friend”.

The charity’s founder, Dan Friedkin, said: “We believe that Roger can best be honoured by redoubling our commitment to protect elephants and our priceless wildlife heritage.

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

The Friedkin Fund says elephant poaching is “especially prevalent” in Maswa, with rangers encountering ivory poachers “on a fairly regular basis”.

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