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Organized crime syndicates involved in the illegal ivory trade are targeting wildlife protection campaigners, conservationists have warned following the murder of a prominent anti-poaching activist in Tanzania. Wayne Lotter, 51, was killed on Wednesday evening as he rode in a taxi from Dar as Salaam airport to a hotel. Police said the car was stopped by another vehicle. Two men, one armed, then opened his car door and shot him. An investigation has been launched into the killing. Lotter, a native of South Africa, had worked in conservation for nearly three decades. He was a director and co-founder of the PAMS foundation, an NGO that aims to protect elephants and giraffes by providing anti-poaching support to communities and governments in Africa. An elephant in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania Credit: Jonathan Caramanus/WWF The US-based NGO finances Tanzania's National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU), which has arrested nearly 900 poachers and illegal ivory traders. They include the 2015 arrests of Boniface Matthew Maliango and "ivory queen" Yang Feng Glan, two of the country's most notorious poaching and ivory trading kingpins. Lotter said shortly before his death that the intelligence-led anti-poaching campaign he is credited with spearheading had succeeded in slowing population decline. Fellow conservationists paying tribute to Lotter have warned his murder is symptomatic of the dangers of taking on the increasingly well armed and organized crime groups who dominate the multi-million pound trade in ivory, rhino horn, and other poached animal parts. Jane Goodall, the famed British primatologist, said she was "profoundly shocked" and that she looked to Lotter as "a hero." Chinese police officers examine ivory and rhino horn products seized from a criminal gang in 2016 Credit: Rex Features ""If this cowardly shooting was an attempt to bring the work of the PAMS Foundation to an end it will fail," she said in a tribute posted on the foundation's Facebook page. Peter Carr, investigations director at the Endangered Species Protection Agency, an NGO, and a friend of Lotter, said: "The assassination of Wayne Lotter underlines the seriousness of the organized crime syndicates behind the illegal wildlife trade. "Wildlife custodians are putting their lives on the line on a daily basis in this current poaching crisis to protect elephants and rhinos. Our thoughts are with Wayne's wife and family, he will be badly missed in the conservation sector." Africa has lost 30 percent of its elephants in less than a decade Credit: TONY KARUMBA/AFP Poaching, habitat loss and a growing human population have had a catastrophic impact on wildlife across Africa in recent years, driving several species to the brink of extinction. A census last year found that Africa's elephant population had plummeted by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014, leaving just 352,271 animals across 93 percent of their range. Tanzania has been called the "epicentre" of the catastrophic decline, losing some 60 percent of all its elephants in just five years. In 2014 the United Nations put the countries Selous game reserve on its list of world heritage sites in danger because of rampant poaching.