Picture 13 of 14

©Mark Muller

The iconic Satao was arguably the most handsome of the last big tuskers. His tusks displayed the characteristic shape of African elephants in that they grew laterally forward before turning towards each other. He lived in the Tsavo National Park (Tsavo East and Tsavo West), which meant he was arguably part of the best big tusker gene pool in the whole of Africa. As can be seen in this photo, big tuskers are often accompanied by several smaller bulls - called askaris - with which they form small bachelor herds.

   People familiar with Satao reported that he seemed to intentionally hide his tusks behind bushes in a way that made them suspect he was aware that his huge tusks placed him in danger. Whatever the scientific reasons behind this behaviour, it is most certainly a characteristic that I have witnessed with respect to several big tuskers.

    After falling victim to poachers in May 2014 at the age of approximately 46, the shocking pictures of his carcass made him a symbol of the huge tragedies suffered by African wildlife. His death highlights the failures across the continent to protect these gentle giants, which is something that we need to face and urgently rectify.