Sadly, conservationists at Tsavo East National Park in Kenya announced the death of Satao, one of their most iconic elephant bulls. Satao was known for his enormous tusks, which was certainly a factor in him being targeted by poachers. The elephant, believed to be over 45 years old, was gone over twenty years before his time.
Satao’s carcass was discovered on June 2nd, but officials from Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and Tsavo Trust wanted to be absolutely certain of the elephant’s identity before making any announcements. His body was found by patrols searching the area by air. “[T]here 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,” Tsavo officials said in a press release. “A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.”
Satao has been monitored for the last 18 months on the ground and from the air, as they knew he was highly sought-after for his tusks. A number of factors were used to identify Satao after his death. His ears were free of tears or scarring, making him easy to identify. There was also caked-on mud that matched what had been seen on him the last time he was seen alive. The body was also found in the area where Satao had been regularly spotted during the last few months of his life.
The rangers who patrol Tsavo to protect the animal inhabitants are underfunded, leaving them largely without the necessary equipment to combat poachers, from weapons all the way down to proper boots. Being a ranger doesn’t pay very much, speaking to the character of those who make this task their life’s work. Poachers are desperate for the large bounty attached to the ivory tusks and will go after them using any means necessary, including taking out any rangers who stand in their way. In fact, conservation rangers in Africa are killed more frequently than police officers, about one every four days.
The region of the park Satao preferred encompassed over one thousand square kilometers of difficult terrain with few roads, making it very difficult for the limited number of rangers to effectively protect the animals. If you would like to support the rangers working tirelessly to combat poaching in Tsavo East National Park, consider making a donation so we can put an end to tragedies such as this.
“Tsavo is our home, our passion and our life’s work but, as the untimely death of Satao so tragically proves, we cannot win every time,” Tsavo officials said. “Rest in peace, Old Friend, you will be missed. Rest assured the fight to protect Tsavo’s elephants goes on.”