Poachers down surveillance helicopter, killing pilot

31Jan 2016
Our Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Poachers down surveillance helicopter, killing pilot

Suspected poachers in Meatu district, Simiyu region downed Mwiba Holdings’ chopper on patrol inside the company’s hunting block, killing a British pilot on the spot and injuring a South African co-pilot on Friday

Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe

Briton Rodgers Gower and co-pilot Nicky Bester were flying a chopper belonging to Mwiba Holdings, a Safari company that conducts wildlife hunting around Makao area in the district.

A source close to the incident that occurred in the early evening hours told The Guardian on Sunday that the ill fated chopper registered as 5HFGF was patrolling the area above the elephant carcasses when it was shot down.

“Nicky survived the attack and sought refuge in a thicket where he radioed Tanzania National Park wardens for help,” said the source.

Russel Hasting, the General Manager of Legendary Expeditions which owns the Safari company was just too shocked of the incident to speak to the press.

But the downing equally shocked the government that the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe took a flight to Arusha from Dodoma yesterday on his way to the scene of the incident in Simiyu.

Nicky, a survivor of the incident was reportedly recovering at Mwiba Holdings offices in Burka area, expressing his condition as stable.

Circumstances behind the shooting were still gloomy yesterday, as Nicky was yet to calm down to speak out details of the tragedy.

But it was alleged that wardens with Mwiba Holdings had earlier seized two motorcycles they suspected of belonging to poachers, not long before the tragic incident.

Mwiba Holdings Limited is an investor doing tourist hunting and photographic tourism activities in the Makao Wildlife Management Area (WMA), located on the southern part of Maswa Game Reserve and Ngorongoro Conservatio Area and Serengeti National Park.

The WMA with about 72,000 hectares is made of Mwabagimu, Mwangudo, Lukale, Iramba ndogo, Bukundi, Isapa, Nsungu, Sapa, Mbushi and Jinamu villages.

Makao WMA secretary, Robert Simon once said that the area is monitored by the well-trained village game scouts (VGS) in collaboration with rangers from Mwiba Holdings Ltd.

“Our task as villagers and investor is to ensure that the area remained free from poaching; so that to lure more tourists to come and visit our conserved area.”

Poaching has been posing serious threat to the country’s wildlife resources and tourism, one of the nation’s leading earners.

It is estimated that an average of 30 elephants are killed every day, threatening their extinction by 2020.

According to a 2014 census released last June, the number of elephants in the country stood at 43,500 in national parks and game reserves from the initial population of 110,000 at the last census in the previous five years, marking a decline 60 per cent.