Details have emerged on how an anti-poaching campaigner was gunned down in Dar es Salaam, to send conservationists into shock over the killing of one of its prominent members.
South Africa national, Wayne Lotter (pictured), who lived and worked in Tanzania for many years died when three gun-toting men ambushed his car and shot him at close range. He died on the spot.
The Citizen gathered yesterday that the 51-year old elephant conservationist was gunned down inside the taxicab. He was seated beside a female colleague Krissie Clark who was luckily not injured.
Mr Lotter was due to attend a meeting on Thursday with members of Tanzania's elite anti-poaching National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) in Dar es Salaam.
The NTSCIU, of which Lotter was a critical player, is credited with arrests of major ivory traffickers including Ms Yang Feng Glan, the so-called "Queen of Ivory" and Boniface Mathew Mariango alias "The Devil."
The unit, formed in 2012 at the peak of Tanzania's poaching crisis, has also netted several other notorious elephant poachers. Records show that the unit has arrested more than 2,000 poachers and ivory traffickers, with a conviction rate of 80 per cent.
The Citizen sources and the police recounted the last moments of Mr Lotter before he was killed at the junction of Haile Selassie and Kaole roads in Masaki at 11.52pm.
He and Ms Clark, a colleague at the PAMs Foundation in Arusha, left Kilimanjaro International Airport at about 10.30pm aboard a Precision Air flight. They landed at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) at about 11.30pm where they took a taxi.
"On arrival, Mr Lotter summoned a taxi driver he has used for the last 10 years. The driver was to take them to Baobab Village in Masaki where they planned to spend the night," said our sources.
"The car was, however, ambushed at the busy intersection by another van which blocked it from the front. Three gunmen then jumped out and confronted the drive as they demanded that he switches off the ignition."
"As the drama with the driver ensued, the other gunmen opened the back door and demanded that the duo handover dollars. Soon after one of them shot Mr Lotter before they took away three laptops and two hand luggage," explained the source close to the NTSCIU. The suspects escaped in the unmarked car leaving a shocked diver and woman at the scene.
Acting Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander Lucas Mkondya confirmed most of these details and said police have launched investigations and a manhunt for the killers. Mr Mkondya said the deceased was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital where he was rushed.
Police who had not issued any statement since the killings on Wednesday night, were silent on the likely motive for the shooting. Yesterday's statement remained silent on what angles they were pursuing in the investigation.
NTSCIU sources also said it would be too early to say if the motive was related to Mr Lotter's anti-poaching work. "The killing is a big loss to the unit as Lotter was very important to all that is taking place here. He has pumped more than Sh1.3 billion annually to conservation efforts in Tanzania," said the source.
When reached for comment, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, said he had been shocked to learn of the killing.
"We are deeply saddened for the death and we believe that the police will do a thorough investigation to identify those involved so that they may face justice," said the minister.
"We send our deep condolences to his family, country, relatives and all the people who he worked with in the war against poaching. We will continue his good work as part of honouring his contribution to this country," Prof Maghembe said.
Media reports in UK revealed Mr Lotter had received numerous death threats while battling international ivory-trafficking networks.
Lotter was the director and co-founder of the PAMS Foundation, an NGO that provides conservation and anti-poaching support to communities and governments in Africa. He started the foundation in Tanzania in 2009.
The latest elephant census data suggests that elephant populations fell by 30 per cent in Africa between 2007 and 2014. Tanzania experienced one of the biggest declines in elephant numbers, where the census documented a 60 per cent decrease in the population.
Lotter was a big figure in the international conservation community, having served on the boards of several conservation groups and was the vice president of the International Ranger Federation. The news of his death has sent the community into mourning. "Wayne was one of Africa's leading and most committed conservationists. He had over two decades worth of experience in wildlife management and conservation, and can be credited as the driving force behind ending the unscrupulous slaughter of Tanzania's elephants," said Azzedine Downes, CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
"Wayne devoted his life to Africa's wildlife. From working as a ranger in his native South Africa as a young man to leading the charge against poaching in Tanzania, Wayne cared deeply about the people and animals that populate this world," read a statement released by the PAMS Foundation team. "Wayne's charm, brilliance and eccentric sense of humour gave him the unique ability to make those around him constantly laugh and smile. He died bravely fighting for the cause he was most passionate about.
"Wayne leaves behind his wife Inge, daughters Cara Jayne and Tamsin, and parents Vera and Charles Lotter. We all grieve with his family, colleagues and friends. His legacy will continue in our work."