Satao was an elephant famous for having tusks so long that they nearly reached the ground, and so distinct, that he could be easily identified from the air as he roamed Kenya's vast Tsavo East National Park.
Now, Satao is dead, slain by ivory poachers who used poison arrows to bring the great elephant down. Once Satao was in their clutches, the poachers hacked off his legendary tusks and much of his face, the Tsavo Trust announced on Facebook and Twitter.
Although Satao was killed on May 30, and his corpse found on June 2, he was so badly mutilated that it took nearly 10 days to confirm that it was indeed the beloved elephant.
"Today 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," the nonprofit organization said in a statement. "A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece."
A Facebook post from the Tsavo Trust, a wildlife organization operating in the region, shows the brutality of the killing:
Satao was about 45 years old and believed to have been one the largest living elephants in the world.
Video from the scene shows a wildlife worker in tears as he stands over the elephant's corpse. Tsavo Trust said it was able to identify Satao from the patterns on his ears as well as the mud caked on what was left of his forehead.
Last month, Mountain Bull, another iconic Kenyan elephant, was also killed by poachers. Kenya Wildlife Service says 97 elephants and 20 rhinos have been slain this year, but others say the real numbers are much higher.
"Elephant poaching in Kenya is at least 10 times the official figures," Dr. Paula Kahumbu, who leads the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign told the Daily Telegraph.
The newspaper adds that the street value for ivory now exceeds that of gold.
Across Africa, at least 20,000 elephants were killed in 2013, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora reported last week.
Tsavo Trust said the region in which Satao was killed "is a massive and hostile expanse for any single anti-poaching unit to cover," roughly 386 square miles.
"The communities living just beyond the National Park boundary persistently carry out illegal activities inside the Park in this area," the agency reports. "Understaffed and with inadequate resources given the scale of the challenge, KWS ground units have a massive uphill struggle to protect wildlife in this area."
Indeed, it seems even the elephants know they're at risk. NPR reports that a filmmaker who traveled to Kenya earlier this year said Satao was apparently attempting to hide his tusks as he walked by, and frequently stuck his head into bushes.
"At once, I was incredibly impressed, and incredibly sad-- impressed that he should have the understanding that his tusks could put him in danger, but so sad at what that meant," Mark Deeble wrote.
Wildlife lovers took to social media to express anguish and outrage over the loss of the elephant.
— Aly Sheta (@a_sheta9) June 15, 2014
"At times like this, it is hard to see any positive side to the situation. But let’s not forget that Satao’s genes survive out there, somewhere in the Tsavo elephant population and they too need protecting," the trust wrote on Facebook. "Satao would have been at least 45 years old. During his lifetime he would have weathered many droughts and seen many other poached elephants, and he would have sired offspring that, given a safe environment to grow up in, may become tomorrow’s generation of great Tsavo tuskers."
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