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Kenya's largest elephant has been killed by poachers

Distressing images. Satao was one last surviving of the ‘great tuskers’.
Jun 14th 2014, 11:36 AM 26,843 97

SATAO Even compared to other elephants Satao was incredibly large. Source: Facebook/The Tsavo Trust

Some may find images below distressing.

KENYA’S LARGEST ELEPHANT has died after being shot by poachers using poisoned arrows.

The elephant famed for his giant tusks, known as Satao and aged around 45, was wounded by poisoned arrows in May in Kenya’s vast southeastern Tsavo national park.

The Tsavo Trust, which works to protect the wilderness and its animals, announced the death “with great sadness” for one of the “most iconic and well-loved tuskers.”

Satao was one last surviving of the ‘great tuskers’, large bull elephants that produce tusks so large that the reach down to the ground.

Wildlife filmmaker based in Kenya Mark Deeble has written a blog post about how poachers have been hunting Satao for some time and how he was injured recently but managed to escape until now:

I was thankful that the bull’s wounds were healing and that we hadn’t had to dart him, but I was devastated that poachers had somehow managed to predict his movements and get close enough to fire two poison arrows into him.I am appalled at what that means – that the survival skills that the bull has painstakingly learnt over half a century have been rendered useless by the poachers’ use of mass-produced Chinese goods; GPS smart-phones, cheap motorcycles and night vision goggles.

I think the old bull knows that poachers want his tusks, and I hate that he knows.

More than anything, I hate the thought that poachers are now closing in on one of the world’s most iconic elephants.

SATAO 3 The Tsavo Trust have confirmed the killing of Satao. Source: Facebook/The Tsavo Trust

The death of the elephant, the latest in a surge of the giant mammals killed by poachers for their ivory, came a day after wildlife regulator CITES warned entire elephant populations are dying out in many African countries due to poaching on a massive scale.

“It is with enormous regret that we confirm there is no doubt that 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 a statement released late Friday.

“Rest in peace, Old Friend, you will be missed,” it added.

Poachers had hacked off the elephant’s face and stolen the tusks, but conservationists who had followed Satao for years identified the body from the ears and other signs. The carcass was found earlier this month.

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Official figures doubted

More than 20,000 African elephants were poached last year alone for their tusks, which rake in thousands of dollars a kilo in Asia, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Organised crime syndicates and rebel militia looking for ways to fund insurgencies in Africa have become increasingly involved, eager to reap the benefits as demand in China for ivory to use in decorations and in traditional medicines has fuelled a multi-billion-dollar illicit trade.

SATAO 2 Satao was Kenya's largest elephant. Source: Facebook/The Tsavo Trust

Additional reporting by © – AFP 2014

Video column: Is there a viable solution to ivory poaching? >

Read: South Africa: 50 per cent increase in rhinos poached in 2013 >

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Rónán Duffy

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