A big tusker killed by poachers

June 15, 2014 • 3:26 pm

Is anyone not watching footie? If so, here’s a post on conservation.

There’s nothing that will stop ivory poachers—even the international ban imposed in 1989. I wish there were some way for authorities de-tusk elephants while they were alive, but that’s not on. And so we mourn the death of Satao, described by CNN as one of Kenya’s “most beloved elephants.”

Satao was doomed simply because his front teeth were so big. From CNN:

 Poachers killed one of Kenya’s most beloved elephants — a behemoth animal with tusks so large, they touched the ground.

Satao was shot with poisoned arrows in the sprawling Tsavo National Park in the country’s southeast.

Wildlife officials found his carcass with two massive holes where his tusks once stood. His face was so badly mutilated, authorities used other ways to identify him, including his ears and the pattern of mud caked on his body.

“Satao is dead, killed by an ivory poacher’s poisoned arrow to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in far off countries. A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantlepiece,” Tsavo Trust said in statement late Friday. “Rest in peace, old friend, you will be missed.”

. . . Satao was about 45 years old, and a hit among visitors at the national park, where understaffed conservationists monitored him regularly to protect him from poachers.

“When he was alive, his enormous tusks were easily identifiable, even from the air,” said Tsavo Trust, a non-profit that protects wildlife.

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RIP Satao

An editorial by Rob Portman (a Republican Senator from Ohio) at CNN outlines the seriousness of the problem, and gives some suggestions, which you can read at the site.

The largest slaughter in one year since the 1989 ban was passed happened in 2012, with up to 35,000 elephants killed. This adds up to nearly 100 a day. Tens of thousands are killed every year. Without action, the day may come when this magnificent creature is known only in history books.

Estimates say if elephants continue to be slaughtered at today’s rates, the creatures could be extinct in a decade.Not only do elephants die. The wildlife rangers who try to protect them from poachers are being killed.

I had no idea 100 elephants were poached each day. I suppose the poachers might be driven by their own starvation, but I can’t imagine killing such a magnificent beast just for two front teeth. Indeed, for any reason.

h/t: Hempenstein

47 thoughts on “A big tusker killed by poachers

  1. I wondered where this demand for ivory was coming from and it is from China. According to this article Chinese entering the middle class desire it because it, like diamonds, is a has a social value despite being actually of little value. Yeah, I thought it was going to be for boner medicine too, but this at least seems like it is controllable (boner medicine deals with sex and woo and we know those two things take a long time to curb with people). We trade with China a lot and build our stuff there so can we not pressure them?

    1. Agree with Diana – we must pressure cultures who are wilfully ignorant about the value, especially of endangered species. China traditionally doesn’t have a sensitivity towards animals, and it’s blind take up of bling, doesn’t auger well for an understanding anytime soon.

      1. I’ve seen some very disturbing reports about tiger poaching in China as well. I agree that it will take political and economic pressure to resolve this issue. The problem with that strategy is time, and lot’s of it. Boycotts are only as successful as they are popular. It will take a lot of hard work and coalition building on the part of conservationists to make this enough of an issue that it has real legs. I hope the tigers and elephants aren’t wiped out in the mean time. Perhaps if there were greater focus on the economic empowerment of Kenyans. If we can stigmatize ivory within the emerging Chinese middle class on one side while providing Kenyans why greater economic opportunities and, in theory, diminishing the need to turn to poaching to earn a living, we might just have a puncher’s chance here.

    2. I agree. If we stopped importing their crap and having our companies use their slave labor….

      oh wait, who am I kidding?

      *sigh*

      1. Where Rhinos are concerned, part of the demand for their horns is the fact that many tribes in Afghanistan consider it a part of the “a boy gains manhood” ritual that the young man get his own rhino-horn handled dagger.

        1. Actually I believe that it’s Yemen where we get this particular fairy tale. Better yet, it’s a marker of even higher status if you have so much inlaid silver and similar decoration on the handle that the rhino horn is completely obscured.

  2. Poaching is re-emerging as a real problem in southern Africa too; hugely increasing in Kruger Park, both elephants and rhinos. A few years ago a rhino was poached from a helicopter in a small reserve that lies more or less within the city of Pretoria. The remaining rhinos had to be dehorned.

  3. I heard about this. It’s horrible. 🙁

    What will really get rid of poaching is educating people in Asia about the difference between real medicine and useless species-destroying old-wives potions. When they stop believing they can have a bigger pecker by ingesting ground up tusks and shark fins those species will be safer.

    1. As Diane pointed out the market for ivory in China is not primarily linked to ‘traditional’ medicines but is more to do with carved ivory being perceived as a prestige product. Owning such things is a statement that you have made it. The answer is still to try and change attitudes but unfortunately the people who buy ivory probably care little about the fate of elephants.

  4. So majestic and such a sad ending. That the death occurs to farm the tusks for trinkets seems off. Surely they could wait for the elelphant to die? An example of supply and demand at it’s worst.

  5. How would they like it if the West made rugs out of pandas? An ad campaign along those lines might catch some attention.

  6. What is not clear from this end of the world is why, if this elephant was under surveillance, how did the poachers evade the watchers, kill it and get away with the tusks.

        1. Corruption is a great problem in regard with conservation. If those who are charged with the protection of these animals, can be bribed, all laws for their conservation are meaningless. My suggestion would be to raise the wages of the guards.

          1. Yes and, more generally, ensure that local communities in areas where elephants occur see some economic benefit from having healthy elephant herds. If the tourist dollars are mainly siphoned off higher up the economic food chain, poor villagers are always likely to be tempted by the money they can get from poaching.

          2. The idea of raising the guard’s wages to end successful bribery depends on how much is required and where that money comes from (I have no idea how much per guard it would require). There are always unintended consequences that must be considered, too. The price of poached ivory may simply have a ceiling too high to matter. Also, money has to be located and allocated to the rest of law enforcement, will must be exerted for legal proceedings that actually serve as deterrence, etc.

            I think of 40 years of US War on Drugs and the influence of illicit money on our justice system. Does one laugh or cry? Efforts to stop poaching that threatens the existence of endangered animals suffers from similarities in price-demand reality.

    1. I also suspect that reservation is too large, and the number of guards too small to guard everything day and night.

      1. There is a special sanctuary within the park for endangered wildlife esp rhinos and elephants. Size should not be a big issue in my estimation.

        1. He had apparently wandered off into an area that wasn’t possible to monitor as closely. The whole reserve is enormous – the size of Connecticut.

    2. I’m part of a team that’s doing field work and research for the Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants.

      My guess in regards to the poaching here is that it could simply be the scale of the habitat that allows poachers to slip through. Elephants are moving many kilometers every day, so tracking them – and having continuous protection- might not be easy unless they wear a satellite collar.

      It doesn’t have to be bribery. There probably are many locals passionate to protect wildlife, but it’s a complicated problem with many moving parts, in a vast landscape.

      It’s very concerning for us to see how Africa is doing.

      1. In this case you can’t rule out bribery. There could be other factors at play but top on the list at least as far as this country is concerned is corruption. There are passionate conservationists and still there are many business men who see the elephants as capital

    3. A lot of the surveillance used by African parks is remote – by the time that the monitors note that there’s something amiss, it’s too late to do anything about it. I read an account recently of elephant monitoring in one of the parks, and the person following particular elephants only knew that an elephant was under attack by poachers when it suddenly made a rapid protracted directional move. Since this monitoring was by means of radio-collars and the monitoring station was a long way off, they couldn’t get to the elephants in time to intervene.

  7. Somewhat offtopic, but: did I just read an article positive of nature conservation written by a Republican? He even admitted that a christian faction can be terrorist.

    So maybe there’s still hope?

  8. It’s worth noting that a fair amount of the wildlife trade is driven by organized crime, including noted terrorist organizations (in the case of elephants and rhinos, most notably Al Shabaab).

    Consequently, while sometimes the poachers are those with little income who poach out of desperation, a great number of poaching events are made by those who are both highly organized and have military grade weaponry.

  9. As rarity increases so does the value which pushes the animals even faster towards extinction. We are selecting for elephants with smaller tusks, but even they will be killed. If even the ex King of Spain does not understand how stupid killing them.

  10. “I suppose the poachers might be driven by their own starvation…”
    No, the trade is driven by international syndicates to supply the demand in the Far East, particularly in China.

    1. And yet, if there were only a few tens (or hundreds) of millions of humans, they could have all the ivory they might ever want, and eat elephant burgers too. Not very nice for the elephants, but there’d be so many more of them, and just as many year after year.

  11. Come on Cameron, ask the obvious question and publish the answer. The Chinese Prime Minister is visiting London this week. Will the British Prime Minister dare to ask (while kowtowing to get trade deals) what the Chinese Government is doing to control the “illegal” import of ivory and rhino horn? Will he then publish the answer for the world to see and judge the effectiveness of the Chinese measures? After all there could well be more votes in conserving elephants than in selling British assets to Chinese investors.

    1. Now this is where the G7 could pull together. They won’t though. They’d rather show off to each other. Damn it people are so much like apes!

  12. I can hardly bear to read articles like this one anymore; they’re so sad and sickening. The poachers are motivated by something far worse than starvation: greed. The situation is made even more diabolical when one realizes that, as their numbers collapse and it becomes harder to get the tusks, the law of “supply and demand” automatically makes them worth more, and thus more attractive to poachers!

    I can’t think of any venue more fitting for a fully-armed Predator drone than that of “poacher-control”!

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