It’s with great sadness that I learnt last week that one of the Friedkin Conservation Fund’s helicopter pilot’s Roger Gower was killed while tracking poachers in a coordinated operation with the Tanzanian authorities.
If you don’t know already, then you are sure to come across it in the news. Briefly, Roger and a colleague were tracking a group of poachers (who were responsible, as I understand it, for the deaths of multiple elephant), when they were fired upon. Roger was hit, managed to land, but subsequently died of his wounds. His colleague managed to escape.
Apart for being shocked at the death of someone who I have got to know over the years, first as a pilot with Tropic Air, where Roger sometimes flew our clients, and then at the Friedkin Trust, I should say that its very unusual that poachers risk firing on a helicopter, and wouldn’t like to speculate as to why they did so on this occasion.
The last time I saw Roger was eighteen months ago, when I was fortunate enough to be flown by him during a Friedkin Trust associated FT assignment. However, I especially remember a trip he and I made, tracking a Hadza hunting party, a task that had us hopping from village to village, following a word-of-mouth information trail in the Yaeda Valley. We did eventually succeed in finding the Hadza, but my abiding memory is of the trip back, flying over Lake Eyasi, which was flooded with flamingo. It remains one of the most beautiful flights I’ve ever had.
I will miss Roger. He was a gentle and highly amusing man, wonderfully engaging, and an excellent pilot. I was especially struck by his professionalism. Whatever the relaxed atmosphere, whatever the sense of camaraderie fuelled by his personality, he never cut corners: safety first, always. He was a lovely man, and it was an honour to have spent time with someone so dedicated to Africa’s wildernesses, to frontline conservation practices. My heart goes out to his family.