Rare tusker elephant killed by poachers in Africa

An African elephant.
An African elephant.

Credit: Dan Kitwood

Credit: Dan Kitwood

A large, rare tusker elephant was found dead, believed to have been killed by poachers.

The body of Satao II, who was about 50 years old, was found during a flyover Jan. 4 of the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. However, his death was announced Monday by the Tsavo Trust.

"I am pretty gutted, really," Richard Moller, head of the conservation group, told AFP. "This particular elephant was one that was very approachable, one of those easy old boys to find. Many of the others are much more difficult to see."

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While the cause of death has not been released, rangers with the Tsavo Trust believe he was shot with a poison arrow.

Known for their tusks, which descend to the ground, there are only about 30 tuskers left, according to the BBC. Satao II was found with his ivory intact, meaning poachers were not able to remove his tusks, which weighed 112 and 111 pounds.

Tsavo conservation rangers arrested two poachers they believe are responsible for the death of Satoa II and three other elephants. The men were found with an AK-47 rifle, 12 poisoned arrows and three bows.

The illegal ivory trade is the largest threat to African elephants. They are poached at a rate faster than they can reproduce. Current populations are estimated at 415,000, a decrease of nearly 100,000 since 2007, according to National Geographic.

"Although this is a very sad loss in every way, we can take some positive from this in that Satao's carcass was indeed found with the ivory intact, and recovered before it could fall into the wrong hands and further fuel the illegal ivory market," the Tsavo Trust said in a statement. "More importantly, this poaching gang has been broken forever."