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AP/Jason Straziuso
Elephant poaching is a huge problem in Tanzania.
TRAGEDY

A British helicopter pilot was shot down and killed by elephant poachers in Tanzania

By Omar Mohammed

Tanzanian authorities have taken into custody three suspects they say shot down a helicopter on an anti-poaching operation, according to the BBC. The helicopter’s British pilot, Roger Gower, was killed in the attack.

“Soon more people making up the poaching gang will be netted and brought to justice,” said Jumanne Maghembe, Tanzania’s minister for natural resources.

Gower worked for the Friedkin Conservation Fund, a wildlife conservation organization. He was flying on an anti-poaching patrol in the Maswa game reserve in the north of Tanzania when he and a colleague spotted a group of dead elephants. When the 37-year-old flew low to investigate, poachers shot down the craft. Despite his injuries, Gower was able to land the helicopter and his passenger escaped alive.

Pascal Shelutete, a spokesman for Tanzania National Parks, told AFP that it is common for poachers to be “heavily armed with sophisticated military weaponry.”

Poaching in Tanzania has reached crisis levels. The country’s elephant population has fallen by 60% since 2009, to a mere 43,000. Efforts to stop the practice have struggled.

“We believe that Roger can best be honored by redoubling our commitment to protect elephants and our priceless wildlife heritage,” Dan Friedkin, founder of the Friedkin Conservation Fund, said in a statement. “This tragic event again highlights the appalling risk and cost of protecting Tanzania’s wildlife.”