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Leading ivory trade investigator slain in Tanzania

  • One of Africa’s top ivory trade investigators has been shot dead by gunmen in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • Wayne Lotter was the co-founder and President of PAMS Foundation, which set up and supported the elite unit behind more than 2,000 arrests since November 2014.
  • He was killed late on Wednesday, while traveling in a taxi from the airport to his rented flat in the quiet suburb of Masaki.

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – One of Africa’s top ivory trade investigators has been shot dead by gunmen in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Wayne Lotter was the co-founder and President of PAMS Foundation, which set up and supported the elite unit behind more than 2,000 arrests since November 2014.

He was killed late on Wednesday, while traveling in a taxi from the airport to the quiet suburb of Masaki. He had previously received death threats.

On Thursday, the famous conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall said he had been “a hero of mine, and a hero to many,” who was “prepared to carry on no matter what”.

She added: “If this cowardly shooting was an attempt to bring the work of the PAMS Foundation to an end, it will fail.”

Wayne Lotter, one of Africa’s top ivory trade investigators, has been shot dead by gunmen in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo by Krissie Clark/PAMS Foundation.

Tanzania lost more than 60 percent of its elephants between 2009 and 2014, according to latest elephant census data. Poaching is fueled by the demand for ivory, primarily from Asian countries, including China.

PAMS Foundation estimated that if that trend had continued, there would now be just 15,000 elephants left in the country. Wayne Lotter has been credited with helping to “turn the tide” on poaching in Tanzania, restoring elephant numbers to an estimated 40,000 by introducing an intelligence-led approach to policing ivory trafficking networks.

PAMS Foundation funds the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU), which targets buyers, traders, and trafficking kingpins, as well as those carrying out elephant poaching.

The unit was behind the arrest of the Chinese businesswoman Yang Feng Glan, known as the “Ivory Queen,” in October 2015. It was believed to be the world’s biggest-ever ivory trafficking case. Yang is accused of leading a ring that transported 706 elephant tusks worth more than $2.5 million. Her trial is ongoing and she denies the charges.

The detective unit was also celebrated in Leonardo Di Caprio’s feature-length Netflix documentary The Ivory Game, which featured the arrest of a notorious Tanzanian poacher, Boniface Matthew Mariango, who was nicknamed “The Devil.” Mariango was sentenced to twelve years in prison earlier in 2017.

Wayne Lotter shied away from media attention and never personally took praise for the unit’s victories.

On Thursday, the international campaigning organisation WildAid said that conservation “had lost one of its brightest and best.”

The group added: “The tide was starting to turn in Tanzania, elephant poaching had decreased in a number of areas, and this was in no small measure because of PAMS and the extraordinary partnership that it forged with the NTSCIU.”

51-year-old Lotter, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, held a Master’s degree in Conservation and worked in wildlife protection for more than 25 years. He had lived in Tanzania since 2003.

His PAMS Foundation co-founder Krissie Clark said: “Wayne devoted his life to Africa’s wildlife and he cared deeply about the people and animals that populated 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.”

Close friend Malcolm Ryen said: “It is one of the darkest days in the conservation world. The tragic loss of Wayne Lotter has deeply hit the fight against poaching in Africa. Wayne Lotter, through PAMS Foundation and the cooperation with the government NTSCIU and the WCU initiated a new era in the fight against poaching, with the introduction of a new intelligence-led approach to fight criminal gangs.”

Ryen also noted that Lotter’s achievements set a milestone in the war against poachers.

“As he used to say, this is a war that has to be fought on different fronts, hitting the infantry, the cavalry as well as the generals, using different approaches to hit different levels, and that has produced unprecedented results. Thanks to him and his team, poaching in Tanzania has been drastically reduced to almost a halt. He has contributed in the saving of thousands of elephants. We will all miss him dearly and hope his team will keep on with the great job carried out until now.”

International trading in ivory remains banned under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but illegal ivory products still make their way into legal markets.

China, the world’s biggest market, has committed to end its legal, domestic trade by the end of 2017, while Hong Kong published a bill to ban its trade by 2021 this past June. The European Union banned exports of raw ivory from July 1st, while the United States announced last year a “near-total ban” on the commercial trade of ivory.

Still, around 20,000 to 30,000 elephants are killed across Africa each year.

Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, called Lotter “one of the last pioneers of conservation” and said his death was a “massive blow to wildlife conservation.”

She said the work of PAMS Foundation was widely regarded as one of the most successful models in Africa, and had even forced criminal networks to move out of Tanzania to neighbouring countries, to escape the increased law enforcement and prosecution.

She added: “Wayne’s inimitable personality, unique sense of humour, enduring and unstinting commitment and integrity, even in the face of overwhelming hostility and corruption, is a sad loss.”

Tanzanian police are investigating the attack on Wayne Lotter. He leaves behind his wife Inga, two daughters, and his parents.

Wayne Lotter speaking at a conference. Photo by Krissie Clark/PAMS Foundation.