One of Kenya’s last tusker elephants has been killed by poachers, conservationists have said.
Satao II's body was found during a routine aerial reconnaissance by the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) near the Voi river in Tsavo East National Park, according to the Tsavo Trust, a non profit conservation group which helps manage the park.
While the cause of death is unknown, the trust said it was "believed to be from poisoned arrow".
Named after a famous tusker elephant killed in the same area in 2014, it is thought Satao II was feeding near the boundary of the park when he died in January, but poachers had not had time to retrieve his ivory before he was found.
The trust said this is a known “hotspot” for poachers using poisoned arrows and three other freshly poached elephants were found in the same area in early January as well.
Tusker elephants, so-called because they have tusks weighing more than 45kg, are particularly desirable to poachers because they produce so much ivory meaning they are critically endangered.
There are approximately only 21 left in east, central and southern Africa and of these 10 live in parks controlled by the Tsavo Trust with a further 16 elephants set to potentially grow tusks long enough to qualify in the next years.
KWS agents worked with rangers from the trust to track the gang leading to a raid shortly after Satao II was found, when two poachers were arrested and an AK47, 12 poisoned arrows and three bows.
In a statement on their website, the trust said: “Although this is a very sad loss in every way, we can take some positive from this in that Satao II’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.
“More importantly, this poaching gang that possibly tried to poach Satao II has been broken for ever. KWS acted swiftly and with support from Tsavo Trust and the informer networks in this area, the desired result was realised.”