Four dead in Tanzanian anti-poaching helicopter crash


All four people on board a Robinson R44 helicopter used by Tanzania for anti-poaching duties were killed when their aircraft crashed on Saturday.

The helicopter had only been in service for several months after being donated to Tanzania by the Howard Buffett Foundation.

Police spokeswoman Advera Senso told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the aircraft went down in the Kipunguni area of the Dar es Salaam, killing two police pilots, a civilian pilot and a police officer.

An investigation is underway to establish the cause of the crash.

The R44 was originally handed over to the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in June to provide aerial support for combating the escalating poaching in its game reserves. Prior to the delivery of the Raven II, Tanzania had only one ageing helicopter for anti-poaching surveillance operations in all national parks across the country.

The Tanzanian government had planned to acquire another two helicopters – a Bell 206 and another R44 – to boost the aerial fleet used by game wardens to detect and track down poachers in national parks in the Eastern and Coastal areas of the country, including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Howard Buffet visited Tanzania in April this year and pledged to stop the poaching of elephants and rhinos during a meeting with President Jakaya Kikwete. In addition to sponsoring the R44, the Foundation also sponsored the training of four pilots and pledged to pay salaries for the pilots and meet the operational costs for the helicopter.

Elephant poaching is a major problem in Tanzania, with the elephant population in the Selous and Mikumi game sanctuaries declining from 38 975 in 2009 to an estimated 13 000 today. The population in the Ruaha and Rungwe national parks has also declined steadily from 35 461 in 2006 to 20 100 today.