A British helicopter pilot was shot and killed by elephant poachers in Tanzania, underscoring the desperate measures criminals will go to to further the trade in illegal animal parts, MSN is reporting.
Roger Gower, 37, was a former accountant who flew people between camps in Tanzania’s bush country, where elephants and other endangered animals are at risk of poachers, who trade in their illegal parts (such as elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns).
Besides transporting passengers, Gower sometimes supported ground patrols in their anti-poaching efforts. It was during such an anti-poaching mission that the pilot was shot down. Gower’s colleagues believe he was flying over an elephant carcass when he was shot.
The pilot was able to get his helicopter to the nearby Maswa Game Reserve, near Serengeti National Park, but unfortunately, he died of his injuries.
— iworry (@IworryTrade) February 1, 2016
The British pilot’s death underscores the deadly human cost of the illegal trade in rare animals and animal parts.
As demand for illegal animal parts grows, desperate poachers will stop at nothing to get the contraband products to the market. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, rhinoceros horns, for example, can sell for nearly $30,000 per pound on the black market. Much of it winds up in China, where it is believed to cure hangovers, fever, impotence, and even cancer (none of those things are true; rhinoceros horns are made of keratin, the same substance that makes fingernails and hair). Ivory, harvested from elephant tusks, can fetch up to $1,000 per pound.
Organized crime syndicates, using high-grade military weapons and gear (such as night-vision goggles, grenade launchers, and helicopters), kill multiple animals at a time while avoiding detection. And poachers will gladly kill anyone who gets in their way.
In October 2015, according to IFL Science, poachers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo shot and killed four wildlife rangers protecting elephants. Similarly, anti-poaching activist Joan Root was murdered by poachers in Kenya in 2006. To this day, her murderers have not been caught, according to Care2.
Friends and colleagues of the murdered British pilot have taken to social media to pour out their grief. In a statement, Dan Friedkin, Chairman of the Friedkin Conservation Fund, said he believes that the best way to honor Gower’s memory is to carry on in protecting vulnerable wildlife from poachers.
“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.”
Those poachers who killed Capt Roger are coward, evil, and sad people. A fine hearted individual gone too soon, and our hearts are broken
— Lazaro Nyalandu (@LazaroNyalandu) January 30, 2016
Even Prince William, who has long been an advocate for shutting down the illegal ivory trade, took notice of Gower’s murder. In a statement, a spokesperson for the Prince said that he was “saddened that yet another life had been lost due to poaching.”
Meanwhile, according to a follow-up report published by BBC News, Tanzania has arrested three suspects in connection with the pilot’s murder.
[Image via Shutterstock/Snap2Art]