There are only about 25 “great tusker” elephants left in Africa, a name that was lovingly given to elephants whose tusks are so long that they nearly touch the ground. Since their tusks are so large, they’re the “perfect” victims of poachers looking to make money from the ivory.
One such recent victim was an elephant named Satao II, a great tusker elephant that lived until he was 50 years old before he was tragically killed by poachers. Conservationists from Tsavo Trust were doing a flyover in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, something they do quite often to deter poachers, when they saw the lifeless body of Satao II from above.
“The loss of Satao II is a tragedy, not only to the remaining great tusker population of Africa, but also a loss to the entire world of yet another iconic elephant,” Paul Oxton, founder and director of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation, told The Dodo. “Every great tusker killed by poachers is an irreplaceable loss to the gene pool and does irrevocable damage to the ancient knowledge carried forward from these sentient beings.”
He’s certainly right; with a little over 20 left in the wild, the great tuskers are rapidly dying out, and it’s estimated that 100 African elephants are killed every single day. When Satao II was found, he still had his tusks intact and conservationists believe it’s because the poachers didn’t have enough time to remove his tusks and lug them out of the park. This poor elephant died in vain, though it’s better that the ivory from his tusks, which is worth about $100,000, is not circulating throughout the illegal trade.
“I am pretty gutted really,” Richard Moller, cofounder and CEO of the Tsavo Trust, told The Guardian. “This particular elephant was one that was very approachable, one of those easy old boys to find.”
Satao II is suspected to have been killed by poisoned arrows, so when two men armed with an AK-47, bows, and 12 poisoned arrows two weeks after his death, they were certain that they caught the poachers. Sadly, the original Satao died in 2014 in the same way, with poisoned arrows and all so poachers could take his huge, iconic tusks.
“The death of Satao II shows that the threat to elephants — even those who are well-known and well-studied — remains tragically pervasive across the elephant’s range,” Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, told The Dodo. “The thirst for ivory persists, despite widespread awareness of the plight of elephants and the risks to their long-term conservation.”
Though China has gone to great lengths to ban the trade in their country by the end of 2017, where the majority of the demand originates from, the persistent poaching has not yielded. If you would like to help with Tsavo Trust’s efforts to put an end to poaching, you can donate here.