Tributes paid to ‘silent hero’ wildlife conservationist killed in Tanzania


Erick Kabendera, The Guardian

Date Published

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Hundreds of people gathered at Baobab Village in Dar es Salaam to pay tribute to Wayne Lotter on Tuesday evening, as tributes continued to come in from around the world.

Lotter, 51, was shot and killed last week while travelling in a taxi from the airport to his hotel on Dar es Salaam’s Msasani Peninsula. 

Lotter, who co-founded PAMS Foundation, a conservation nonprofit, was responsible for supporting anti-poaching efforts that had led to the arrests of more than 2000 ivory poachers and traffickers, and had taken down several key poaching syndicates in the country. He had received numerous death threats since starting the organization in 2009.

At his memorial, friends, colleagues and foreign dignitaries, including representatives from the Chinese embassy, many wearing black t-shirts with a logo of Lotter standing with a group of elephants and the word ‘true hero’ in English, Swahili and Mandarin, praised and thanked Lotter for his dedication to wildlife and the strides he made to end the ivory trade.

His partner Krissie Clark told the Guardian afterwards that she had been particularly moved by “the mix of people who came”. At the end, “everybody clapped, but they clapped and clapped and clapped and clapped and stood up, one could feel the emotion in the air. The love for Wayne was evident.”

Lotter was described by many as a ‘silent hero’ who often deflected credit for his work to his partners. “[Before] our law enforcement was just doing routine raids, so how do we change the tide?” Robert Mande, the head of anti-poaching at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania, remembered asking Lotter.

“He told me we should not despair, we should work day and night to change the tide. Then we started to think about how to do operations beyond our traditions and his [intelligence-based] approach is a popular concept that we at the Ministry are now using.”

Mande, who spoke on behalf of the Tanzania government, said Lotter’s legacy will have a lasting impact on conservation efforts.

“We’re just going to work hard to make sure what Wayne wanted to reach, we are going to reach it and elephants are going to be all around Tanzania,” Mande said. “We will never despair because of this.”

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, English zoologist and the founder of Save the Elephants also spoke at the memorial and praised Lotter for his work.

A crowdfunding initiative for Lotter aims to raise $50,000 US in donations for Lotter’s family. He leaves behind his wife, twin daughters, and parents who all live in his native South Africa. Money raised will be used to help his family with costs related to his death, including relocating his body from Tanzania to South Africa where a funeral will be held on August 26.

According to the crowdfunding page, anything raised above the amount needed to cover these costs will be put into legacy trust in Lotter’s name, and will fund intelligence-gathering against the ivory trade, and help the families of other wildlife rangers who are killed on duty. In the last couple of weeks alone, six wildlife rangers around the world have been killed while working.

Police have not yet announced the arrest of any suspects in connection with the killing of conservationist Wayne Lotter.

The Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander, Lucas Mkondya says that police are still investigating the killing but have not so far not arrested anybody. “The police force will provide all information once the investigation is completed. I encourage you to remain calm as we continue investigating the matter.”

Two days after Lotter’s death, Professor Jumanne Maghembe, Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources, announced that the police had arrested six people in connection with 28 elephant tusks in Dar es Salaam.

Diplomatic sources in Dar es Salaam said that Lotter had been tracing the arrested suspects for a while. It remains unclear whether the arrests are connected with his killing.

But Clark says that the work of PAMS will continue. “Work is progressing as normal, but with more determination. Village game scout training is currently taking place. The national taskforce for anti-poaching had a big bust of ivory and arrested several people. We are also keeping on with our human wildlife conflict initiatives and environmental education.”