Tanzania’s tour operators condemn the killing of helicopter pilot


TANZANIA (eTN) – Local tourism players have expressed the shock, sorrow and anger on the shooting to death of a courageous young pilot, Roger Gower in northern Tanzania.

A 37-year-old Gower died in the seat of his helicopter after being fired upon from the ground by suspected heavily armed poachers.

In his dying moments still successfully managed to avoid a complete crash, aiding the survival of a second occupant who was also in the helicopter as a spotter.

The C.E.O of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), based in Arusha has condemned the senseless killing of the helicopter pilot, who was investigating the scene of recently poached elephants in the greater Serengeti eco-system to the south west of the famous Serengeti Park.

“Let me expressed the shock, sorrow and anger felt by everyone involved in tourism, on the shooting to death of a courageous young pilot, Roger Gower” Mr Akko said in a statement.

“If this young man’s death is not to be in vain we call on the Tanzania government to bring the culprits to court” he stressed.

But more than this, Mr Akko demanded the state to take appropriate measures to make sure that the poaching epidemic of the last ten years that has decimated the Selous –Mikumi and Ruaha eco-systems, does not shift to the North of Tanzania.

Tarangire and Serengeti National Park, he said have witnessed increases in their elephant populations, which are a proud achievement.

He commented that nature based tourism is the economic engine of Tanzania as a whole earning about 17 percent of GDP and about 20 percent of the countries forex earnings and directly employing over 600,000 people but supporting two or three times that number.

The association (TATO) has nearly three hundred member companies involved in the tourism industry.

“We have unfortunately allowed our wildlife heritage to enter a steep decline over the past decade and if elephant poaching and poaching in general is not contained, once and for all, the $2.05 billion tourism industry will be seriously threatened” TATO CEO noted.

It is encouraging, Mr. Akko said, that the new government has stepped up anti poaching measures and significant arrests have been made of late.

In addition the government through the new Minister of natural resources and tourism, Prof Jumanne Maghembe has made statements that show a commitment to action.

“However the recent and tragic incident is a wakeup call that our northern rangelands must not end up as the new killing fields and those behind poaching and illegal movement of ivory and animal products must also be brought to book and given severe prison sentences” Mr Akko explains.

He concluded by saying that this young man’s ultimate sacrifice and the deaths of many more in the front line of the battle against poachers and their sponsors should not go in vain.