People Just Killed One Of Africa's Most Beloved Elephants

There are only 25 like him left.

They're called "great tuskers" - the African elephants whose tusks are so magnificently large, they nearly reach the ground - and one of these rare and majestic animals was recently found shot to death by poachers.

Conservationists from the Tsavo Trust were flying over Kenya's Tsavo National Park in January when they spotted the body of an elephant. This week, it was revealed that the animal lying lifeless in the park was Satao II, a 50-year-old elephant who was one of the last of about 25 great tuskers in all of Africa.

"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."

"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's tusks, each of which weighed over 100 pounds and could be worth at least $100,000 in the ivory market, were still attached to his body. It is unclear why the tusks were left, though some say poachers didn't have time to remove them before fleeing.

Two weeks after the elephant's body was found, authorities captured the people suspected of killing Satao II. The two men were found with an AK-47, bows and 12 poison arrows. It's believed that a poison arrow is what killed Satao II.

Satao, another great tusker after whom Satao II was named, met the same fate in 2014, shot by poachers with poison arrows. When people found his body, his face had been mutilated where his tusks had been hacked off.

These are just some of the more visible victims of the ivory trade. But it's estimated that as many as 100 African elephants are killed each day to feed an insatiable demand for ivory.

"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."

Even though China, where much of the demand for ivory lies, has taken steps to shut down its ivory trade by the end of this year, closing the first ivory carving factories this month, progress just didn't come fast enough to save Satao II.


To help protect elephants from poaching, you can make a donation to the Tsavo Trust.