Opinion: Killing of Great Tusker in Kenya Recalls Lesson From the Past

Satao was killed by poachers in May near Tsavo National Park, Kenya. Unlike another great tusker named Ahmed, Satao did not have presidential protection. (Photograph courtesy Richard Moller/TSAVO TRUST)

By John Heminway

The killing in late May of the great tusker Satao, in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, was another blunt reminder that no elephant in Africa is safe. A poacher’s poisoned arrow felled him, and his death was presumed to have been long and painful.

Satao was thought to be the largest-tusked elephant surviving in Africa. While he lived, he was a talisman of a wild land; in death, another tragic example of conservation’s failure.

Satao’s life and legend recalls those of Ahmed, an emblematic elephant known to many during the 1960s and 1970s. Ahmed inhabited the forests of Marsabit National Reserve, on a mountain rising out of the scrublands of northern Kenya. His tusks were presumed to be the longest and heaviest in Africa.

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  • William Louis

    John, you might remember me from when I was in Kenya in the 70’s, I was handling Jonathan Winters and John Huston, we talked to them a few times about coming to Kenya, we talked on the phone a few times, and I’m back in business. I wrote a novel about Kenya, its out now, called The Games End, its a very interesting book, people like it, and the elephant Ahmed in my book is just like this elephant Satao.

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