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Before there was Cecil, there was Satao #WorldElephantDay

posted: 08/12/15
by: Danny Clemens
Satao the elephant
Tsavo Trust

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.

In March 2014, park officials found Satao with two festering gashes in his side. Medical test confirmed that the lacerations were the result of poisoned arrows shot by poachers in a failed attempt to kill the majestic creature.

This was neither the first nor the last time that poachers made an attempt on Satao's life.

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: in horrific fashion, the beloved Satao had fallen victim of the ivory trade.

Sadly, Satao's story is not unique. Between 2010 and 2012, poachers claimed the lives of 100,000 elephants throughout Africa. Elephant poaching is driven primarily by the demand for ivory, as evidenced by mutilated, tuskless elephant carcasses littered throughout the savanna. Despite increasingly strict regulations governing the trade of ivory, conservationists fear that the elephant poaching crisis is intensifying.

In June, President Barack Obama proposed a near-total ban on domestic ivory trading. The ban, however, has not yet been finalized -- the Fish & Wildlife Service is accepting public comment on the ban for the next two months.

Let your voice be heard. Click here to add your name to a petition urging the Obama administration to end the commercial trade of ivory in the United States once and for all.

Click here to watch a video with more information about Satao's plight. Warning: graphic content.

Satao photo courtesy Tsavo Trust via The Great Elephant Census

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