Rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service and Tsavo Trust pose with the large, long elephant tusks of Satao II. Park rangers recovered the tusks before poachers would claim them.

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Satao II was killed by poachers

He was one of 30 tuskers left in Africa, conservationists say

Park rangers detained two alleged poachers

CNN  — 

One of Africa’s rare giant tusker elephants has been killed by poachers in southern Kenya.

Conservations discovered the body of Satao II, one of the country’s largest, most iconic elephants during a routine flyover of Tsavo National Park.

Satao II likely died when he was shot by a poisoned arrow in a poaching attempt, wildlife conservation group Tsavo Trust said.

The group found the elephant in January, but did not reveal his death until this week. He was about 50 years old.

Park rangers found Satao II’s body near a river in the eastern half of the park in an area described as a “poaching hotspot” by Tsavo Trust.

Satao II, seen here at the Tsavo National Park in southeast Kenya, was named after his predecessor, Satao, who was killed by poachers in 2014.

Tusker elephants are known for having tusks so large, they touch the ground. Rangers recovered his long, heavy tusks before poachers claimed them.

Wildlife conservationists detained two poachers believed to be responsible for Satao II’s death about two weeks later, according to the Tsavo Trust. They also recovered an AK-47 along with three bows and 12 poisoned arrows.

“Although this 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,” Tsavo Trust wrote on its website.

“More importantly, this poaching gang that possibly tried to poach Satao II has been broken forever.”

Satao II was named after his famous predecessor, Satao, a giant tusker killed by poachers in 2014. When rangers found his body, his tusks were missing and his face was so badly mutilated that authorities had difficulty identifying him.

Giant tusker elephants, named for the massive length and weight of their tusks, are rare and highly endangered. Satao II was one of 10 giant tuskers living in the Tsavo National Park. Only 30 tuskers remain in Africa, according to wildlife charity Save the Elephants.

Elephants are poached for their ivory tusks, which are used as trophies or carved into trinkets and ornaments.

Despite an international ban on the trade of ivory, the demand for it persists. Poachers kill between 20,000 and 30,000 elephants a year for their tusks, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Elephant tusks sell on the black market for thousands of dollars, making it a lucrative trade and endangering an increasingly fragile population.