Skip to main content

Poachers kill beloved Kenyan elephant known for giant tusks

By Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 3:04 AM EDT, Sun June 15, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Satao had tusks so large, they touched the ground
  • Beloved elephant was a hit among tourists at the national park
  • Conservation groups: Surge in illicit ivory trade results in killing of 30,000 African elephants a year

(CNN) -- Poachers killed one of Kenya's most beloved elephants -- a behemoth animal with tusks so large, they touched the ground.

Satao was shot with poisoned arrows in the sprawling Tsavo National Park in the country's southeast.

Wildlife officials found his carcass with two massive holes where his tusks once stood. His face was so badly mutilated, authorities used other ways to identify him, including his ears and the pattern of mud caked on his body.

An elephant walks with her infant in the Amboseli Game Reserve in Kenya. The International Fund for Animal Welfare says 2012 had the highest toll of elephants' lives in decades. Between January and March 2012, at least 50% of the elephants in Cameroon's Bouba Ndjida National Park were slaughtered for their ivory. Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment and is coveted as "white gold." An elephant walks with her infant in the Amboseli Game Reserve in Kenya. The International Fund for Animal Welfare says 2012 had the highest toll of elephants' lives in decades. Between January and March 2012, at least 50% of the elephants in Cameroon's Bouba Ndjida National Park were slaughtered for their ivory. Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment and is coveted as "white gold."
Ivory's tragic price
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
Ivory\'s tragic price Ivory's tragic price
Rangers search for illegal ivory
Chad's bloody ivory trade

"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 late Friday. "Rest in peace, old friend, you will be missed."

Satao was about 45 years old, and a hit among visitors at the national park, where understaffed conservationists monitored him regularly to protect him from poachers.

"When he was alive, his enormous tusks were easily identifiable, even from the air," said Tsavo Trust, a non-profit that protects wildlife.

Though he mostly roamed within a limited part of the park, he recently started venturing to an area considered a hotbed of poaching activity.

The area he moved to in search of fresh water is hard to access due to its thick vegetation and scarce roads.

"With today's mounting poaching pressures and anti-poaching resources stretched to the limit, it proved impossible to prevent the poachers getting through the net," Tsavo Trust said.

His carcass was found earlier this month, but authorities verified his identity Friday.

"We are left with no choice but to acknowledge that the great Satao is no more," the trust said in a statement.

South Africa marks worst year in rhino killings

Satao is a victim of an illegal ivory trade that has doubled worldwide since 2007, with the United States among the top markets for illegally acquired tusks because of unregulated ways of purchasing ivory, including the Internet and auctions. China is the largest market, and other Asian nations such as Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam also drive demand.

Conservation groups say the recent surge in the illicit ivory trade has resulted in the killing of 30,000 African elephants annually in recent years. The tusks sell for thousands of dollars, making it a lucrative trade and endangering already fragile populations in Africa.

"The surge in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other listed species globally threatens not only wildlife populations but the livelihoods of millions who depend on tourism for a living," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. environment program.

Armed groups are capitalizing on the increasing value of ivory by killing elephants and trading their tusks for arms and ammunition.

Elephants, rangers face growing threats in Chad

Opinion: Elephants slaughtered for trinkets and terrorism

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 9:16 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT