Wayne Lotter, pictured, had dedicated his life to saving elephants. He put at least 300 poachers behind bars
A conservationist who was the scourge of elephant poachers has been shot dead in a suspected contract killing by ivory smugglers.
South African-born former ranger Wayne Lotter, 51, dedicated his life to saving elephants and was credited with putting at least 300 poachers behind bars.
But his high-profile role in protecting endangered wildlife in Tanzania led to numerous death threats against himself and his family.
On Wednesday he landed at the airport of the capital Dar es Salaam and was being driven to his hotel when his car was forced off the road and into a ditch.
Two gunmen got out and shot him repeatedly in the head and body then stole his laptop which is believed to contain sensitive information about poachers.
Police say the fact that luggage and his wallet was left behind suggests that robbery was not a motive and that a price could have been put on his head.
The married father-of-two daughters pioneered an intelligence-led anti-poaching effort that saw over three thousand arrests and hundreds jailed for up to 20 years.
Mr Lotter was the director and co-founder of the PAMS Foundation to save elephants. It set up an anti-poaching unit that has arrested more than 2,000 poachers and ivory traffickers since 2012 and has a conviction rate of 80 per cent with sentences of up to 20 years commonplace.
They included the so-called ‘Ivory Queen’ – aka Yang Feng Glan – a Chinese woman who is accused of running a £2million ivory trafficking ring in a case that is ongoing.
South African-born former ranger Wayne Lotter, pictured, pioneered an intelligence-led anti-poaching effort that saw over three thousand arrests and hundreds jailed for up to 20 years
Death threats began after arrest levels soared, thousands of weapons and vehicles were seized and king-pins of the operation were locked up.
UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall said yesterday: ‘Wayne’s anti-poaching efforts made a big difference in the fight to save Tanzania’s elephants for the illegal ivory trade.
‘His courage in the face of stiff opposition and personal threats, his determination to keep on fighting, has inspired many and encouraged them also to keep fighting for wildlife.
‘If this cowardly shooting was an attempt to bring the work of the PAMS Foundation to an end it will fail. Those who have been inspired by Wayne will fight on.
‘He will be sadly missed by so many. My heart goes out to Krissie [Clark, PAMS co-founder], his family, and all who have been privileged to know and work with him.’
A vehicle drives past the crime scene marking the spot where conservationist Wayne Lotter, pictured, was shot and killed in Dar es Salaam. He helped arrest thousands of poachers
When he began he had to battle against high level government interference and the courts turning a blind eye as they saw the rights of an individual over wildlife.
He involved local communities and proved the tourist economy could be massively boosted if the elephants and the wildlife were protected and won them over.
Mr Lotter said in a recent documentary on the NTSCIU called The Ivory Game that he believed its work had helped to reduce poaching rates in Tanzania by 50 per cent.
Between 2009 and 2014 Tanzania lost 60 percent of its elephants reducing from 109,00 to 43,000 but the efforts of the NTSCIU thanks to Mr Lotter has seen the tide turn.
Lotter, Vice President of the International Ranger Federation, was respected worldwide for his conservation work and its’ community is shattered by his death.
A PAMS Foundation statement said: ‘He had over two decades of experience in conservation and can be credited as the driving force behind ending the unscrupulous slaughter of Tanzania’s elephants
‘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.
‘He cared deeply about the people and animals that populate this world.
‘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” he said.
Wayne’s wife Inge, a beekeeper, posted a picture of them together on her Facebook page with the message: ‘Forever in my heart. I will always love you and treasure the years we had together. Till we meet again, my Love….’
They have two daughters Tamsin, who works for the wildlife charity Elephants Alive, and Cara Jayne who is a wildlife photographer.
Ecologist Malcom Ryen said of his friend: ‘This is one of the darkest days in the conservation world and his loss could deeply hit the fight against poaching in Africa.
Andrea Crosta, Executive Director of the Elephant Action League, said: ‘We lost one of the best conservationists in Africa and a good friend in Wayne.
‘Thousands of elephants in Tanzania and elsewhere owe him their life’ she said.