Satao, the 45-year old jumbo and one of the largest living elephants in the world, was found dead in May 30 this year in an area of the expansive Tsavo East National Park that is largely unmanned. When his carcass was found, his world-famous tusks were missing – together with a large part of his forehead.
The great Satao had finally fallen, killed by the poisoned arrows of poachers – that breed of humanity without a heart. But why has the death of Satao shocked the world? Why is social media rife with stories of his death? After all, was he not just another elephant in the wild?
First-off, Satao was a rare breed of elephant – perhaps the last remaining of his kind on earth. His genetic make-up gave him the ability to grow really large. His size, particularly his extraordinarily large tusks, measured a whooping 6.5 feet, almost touching the ground and weighed close to 46 KG.
With such features, it is not hard to see why this great tusker was such a major tourist attraction to Kenya. Thousands of tourists flocked the Tsavo East National Park to catch a glimpse of this magnificent jumbo.
Interestingly all known tuskers of Satao’s stature are only to be found in Kenya. But did you know that Satao’s kind thrived in the 70s and 80s when Tsavo’s elephant population was an impressive 40,000 strong?
Due to their relatively larger tusks compared to other elephants, they became a major target by poachers. Today, only a handful roam the Savannahs of Kenya and the death of any one of them, is a big blow to conservation. Just a month before Satao’s demise, another iconic jumbo, Mountain Bull, was speared in the Mount Kenya area by poachers.
This was not the first attempt on Satao apparently. In March 2014, Satao was found with 2 seeping wounds in his flank caused by poisoned arrows shot into him. He was treated and survived. Mountain Bull, prior to his death, had also survived at least one previous poaching attempt, which left 6 bullets in his body.
Today, Kenya mourns great wildlife assets gone to waste. It shall be a big blow to tourism even as the country grapples with a host of problems in the sector. Our hope is that these mighty tuskers left a DNA print of themselves in the wild that will spur the tusker generation on.
As a country, we can only plan to invest more to protect this rich heritage, to safeguard the little that is remaining and to ensure Satao and Mountain Bull’s offspring can grow in an environment where they are guaranteed of living life to its fullest.