Conservationist who took on the ivory poachers to protect the African elephant

When he was offered a leading role in the documentary The Ivory Game (2016) by its producer, Leonardo DiCaprio, the conservationist Wayne Lotter modestly gave the credit instead to his wildlife rangers, who led the way in tracking down one of Africa’s most notorious poachers, thought to be responsible for 10,000 elephants’ deaths. Lotter preferred to be in the background, while the spotlight fell on the cause for which he fought: saving the dwindling populations of Africa’s wild elephants, through practical, dogged, on-the-ground tracking of poachers and protection of their prey.

Lotter has been shot dead in Dar es Salaam, aged 51. Although the identity of his killers is not known, the murder may have been connected to one of the criminal groups involved in wildlife killing and ivory trafficking in Tanzania. These groups have turned what used to be small-scale ivory poaching into a highly organised international criminal enterprise that exists mainly to service Chinese demand for ivory and other rare animal products. “The more you go after them, the more situations where there is confrontation between poachers and rangers will take place,” Lotter said last year. “There are going to be risks.”

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