The regal Satao was the pride and joy of Kenya. At nearly 50 years old, the stoic elephant was the living embodiment of a fleeting reality that has since nearly slipped through mankind's hands. Thought to be among the tallest elephants in the country, Satao was an iconic "tusker," an elephant whose long tusks nearly scrape the ground as it walks.
To many, a tusker is a national treasure. To some, however, a tusker is a hefty paycheck: a pound of ivory can go for more than $1,500 on the black market. With 100-pound tusks that each measured over 6 feet, Satao's tusks could have easily fetched $250,000.
Well aware of the large bounty on his life, the Kenya Wildlife Service and the nonprofit Tsavo Trust monitored Satao nearly constantly from the ground and the air. In an area as vast as Kenya's Tsavo East National Park, however, even the most concerted anti-poaching efforts can come up short.
On June 2, 2014, wildlife officials spotted an elephant carcass near the park's borders. Authorities deduced that the animal had been killed by a poacher's poison arrow. However, with its tusks removed and its face mutated beyond recognition, the elephant was not immediately identifiable.
After more than a week of investigation, authorities confirmed the worst-case-scenario: in horrific fashion, the beloved Satao had fallen victim of the ivory trade.
Satao photo courtesy Tsavo Trust via The Great Elephant Census