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Poachers Kill Satao, One of the World's Largest Elephants

Satao, Kenya's Largest Elephant, Killed by Poachers
Satao the elephant
Courtesy The Tsavo Trust

06/15/2014 AT 07:25 PM EDT

The Tsavo Trust, a not-for-profit organization located in Kenya, reported Friday that one of the largest and oldest bull elephants in Kenya's Tsavo Conservation area – and likely the world – Satao, had been killed by poachers.

Satao, who was likely born sometime in the late 1960s, had tusks weighing more than 100 lbs., making him a prime target for ivory poachers. The Trust announced that Satao had been shot with a poisoned arrow on May 30, and that a carcass the group believed was his had been spotted on June 2, but they refrained from making a positive identification until Friday. The group reported that the poachers had hacked off the elephant's face and taken his ivory.

Satao had already survived one attempt on his life (also made with poisoned arrows) in March. (A small consolation: The Trust reported that the Kenya Wildlife Service has arrested the main poison dealer and supplier in Kilifi, whose product has been linked to many elephant deaths.)

Satao was a favorite of the Trust, and was well known in the conservation world for his massive, sweeping tusks. Sadly, wildlife filmmaker Mark Deeble believed Satao had been aware of his tusks and how they made him a target – he describes the massive bull elephant cautiously moving from bush to bush when approaching a waterhole, keeping his head and tusks hidden. "I wondered if my interpretation of his behavior was fanciful, just a filmmaker's frustration at not being able to get a clear view," Deeble writes, "but whenever we saw him, he tried to hide his tusks and I am convinced that it was deliberate."



According to the most recent figures from the Kenya Wildlife Service, 97 elephants have been poached in Kenya this year, but as Paula Kahumbu writes at The Guardian, "Nobody in Kenya believes this figure."

"I estimate, from the reports I have seen, that the elephant poaching in Kenya is at least 10 times the official figures."

If you'd like to donate to the Tsavo Trust, you can do so here.

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