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British pilot shot dead by elephant poachers in Tanzania

Roger Gower, 37, and his unnamed passenger were flying low to the ground searching for gunmen who had killed three elephants in the country’s Maswa Game Reserve on Friday afternoon when they broke cover and shot at him from the ground with a high-calibre rifle.

A British pilot who was fatally shot by elephant poachers in Tanzania managed to manoeuvre his helicopter safely to the ground before dying, saving the life of a South African colleague, it has emerged.

Roger Gower was taking part in an anti-poaching operation with authorities in Tanzania. A bullet is understood to have passed up through the floor of the aluminium and fibre-glass helicopter, hitting Mr Gower first in the leg then in the shoulder before exiting through the roof.

Despite being mortally injured, he brought the damaged helicopter down into a tree before it hit land, preventing it from exploding and saving his colleague.

On Saturday, friends and family paid tribute to the former accountant from Birmingham who retrained as a pilot and moved to east Africa eight years ago to fly touristic safaris and, latterly, anti-poaching operations with the Friedkin Conservation Fund (FCS). 

Pratik Patel, another contemporary of the FCS and one of the experts of documentary “IVORY.A Crime Story”, said he had been "a great guy, a great friend, a great pilot".

Speaking to the Telegraph on Saturday, the environment minister of Tanzania, which has received millions of pounds in international help to try to stem the decline, vowed to leave “no stone unturned” in catching Mr Gower’s killer.