One of Africa's last 'great tuskers' killed by poachers
Known for his massive tusks that scraped the ground, Satao the elephant has become the latest victim of the illicit ivory trade.
Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 12:39 PM
A French customs agent holds an elephant tusk seized at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in 2012. (Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/Getty Images)
A 45-year-old elephant with tusks so large they touched the ground was recently killed by poachers in an African park.
Satao, a bull whose tusks were estimated to weigh about 100 pounds, was found in Kenya's Tsavo National Park, dead from poisoned arrows.
The animal's face was so badly mutilated that authorities had to use other methods to determine the elephant was Satao.
"Satao is dead, killed by an ivory poacher's poisoned arrow to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in far-off countries. A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantlepiece," Tsavo Trust said in statement Friday. "Rest in peace, old friend, you will be missed."
Satao was popular among visitors to the national park, where conservationists monitored him to protect him from poachers.
Mark Deeble, a filmmaker who’s taken footage of the elephant, told the National Post that Satao always kept his tusks hidden among foliage.
"I'm convinced he did that to hide his tusks from humans. He had an awareness that they were a danger to him," he said.
Satao typically roamed within a limited range of the park, but because he was searching for water, he'd recently moved into an area known for poaching activity.
Satao is the latest victim in a surge of elephant poaching that fuels the illegal ivory trade.
Despite a 1989 law banning elephant poaching, more than 20,000 of the animals are slaughtered in Africa annually. These numbers exceed the birthrate in much of the continent.
The Kenya Wildlife Service has documented the killing of 97 elephants within the country alone so far this year.
Elephant tusks sell for thousands of dollars, and their street value is now greater than gold.
"Satao was probably one of half a dozen of Kenya’s great tuskers, possibly the largest," Deeble said. "If Satao's death can galvanize the focus on what’s actually happening here in terms of poaching, then he won’t have died in vain."
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