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Tributes to UK helicoper pilot 'killed by elephant poachers' in Tanzania

Published 30/01/2016

The pilot was trying to help authorities combat the threat of elephant poaching
The pilot was trying to help authorities combat the threat of elephant poaching

A British helicopter pilot has been shot dead by elephant poachers in Tanzania, a conservation charity has said.

Englishman Roger Gower was helping authorities in Tanzania track the criminals when they fired on his aircraft, the Friedkin Conservation Fund (FCF) said.

He managed to bring the helicopter down in the the Maswa Game Reserve, near Serengeti National Park in the country's north, but died from his wounds before he could be rescued.

Pictures posted online show the badly damaged remains of the helicopter, including a bloodied bullet hole in the pilot's seat of the aircraft, which lay on its side in the savannah grass.

In a message posted on its website, FCF founder Dan Friedkin said the organisation was "profoundly saddened by the loss of our dear friend".

He said: "Roger was killed while piloting a helicopter during a co-ordinated 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 honouring 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 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 Tanzania¹s wildlife."

Mr Gower is reported to be a former accountant who qualified as a pilot in 2004.

Pratik Patel, a colleague from the Friedkin Conservation Fund, told the BBC Mr Gower was shot on Friday afternoon during a patrol as he approached the last carcass of three elephants that had been killed by poachers.

He paid tribute to "a great guy, a great friend, a great pilot" who he said loved working with Tanzania's wildlife.

He said: "Roger was an amazing person, an amazing character, full of joy, full of life. He loved Africa, he loved Tanzania and he loved being in the bush."

The pilot's main role was flying people between the different camps on the reserve, Mr Patel said, but he also spent some time every day flying patrols to support ground staff in their work against poachers.

Tanzanian MP Lazaro Nyalandu, a former minister for natural resources and tourism,paid tribute to the Briton's work.

He said on Twitter: "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," he went on.

"Those poachers who killed Capt Roger are coward(sic), evil, and sad people. A fine hearted individual gone too soon, and our hearts are broken.

"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."

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."

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