Iconic 'giant tusker' Satao II slain by poachers

Giant tusker African elephant Satao II (Tsavo Trust)
Satao II was feeding near the park's boundary at the time (Tsavo Trust)

One of Africa's oldest and biggest elephants has been slain, but his body was able to be recovered with the ivory still intact.

Satao II was an iconic African "giant tusker", an adult with massive tusks weighing at least 45kg.

Their large tusks make them an ideal target for poachers, but Satao II's corpse was recovered with both intact, weighing 51kg and 50.5kg each.

"The cause of death is not 100 percent confirmed but it is believed he succumbed from an attempted poaching via poisoned arrow," conservation group Tsavo Trust said.

Fifty-year-old Satao II was feeding near the park's boundary at the time, which Tsavo Trust says is a "poaching hot spot".

Two known poachers were arrested less than two weeks after the body was discovered, while an AK47 rifle, three bows and a dozen poisoned arrows were confiscated.

Tsavo Trust works with the Kenyan Wildlife Service and its monthly report says they recovered eight elephant corpses in January, three of them which were killed by poachers, including Satao II.

The elephant was named after another famous tusker, which was found shot dead in 2014.

In the same year, a study by Colorado State University found more elephants are being slain than born each year, raising concerns about the species' survival in Africa.

Co-author George Wittemyer said it's been a "disaster".

"Even today, we don't precisely know the number of elephants left in the world," he said when the study was released.

Tsavo Trust said there were some bright spots amongst the darkness of Satao II's death.

"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," it said on its website.

"But also more importantly, this poaching gang that possibly tried to poach Satao II has been broken forever."