BBC wildlife presenter Gordon Buchanan has expressed his shock and sadness at the slaughter of one of Africa’s oldest and largest elephants.
The majestic 50-year-old animal – known as Satao 2 – featured prominently in Buchanan’s BBC2 Christmas documentary two-parter Elephant Family and Me.
It was found dead in Kenya’s Tsavo national park after being poisoned by poachers who were arrested by wardens before the elephant’s giant tusks – each weighing an estimated 50kg – could be hacked off.
Today, talking exclusively to RadioTimes.com Buchanan said:
“It is desperately sad news. When I first saw Satao I was truly lost for words – the size of him just took my breath away. I realised immediately that what I was looking at was one of the world’s most precious wild animals. It was like something from a distant past.”
The elephant was one of a dwindling number of what are known as super tuskers – so called because their tusks are long enough to scrape the ground – still roaming Africa. There are thought to be as a few as 20 still alive. Satao 2 was named after another super tusker that was also killed by poachers in 2014.
Buchanan with a baby elephant on BBC2’s Elephant Family and Me
Buchanan said the wardens who patrolled the park would be devastated by the death. “The great shame is that some people out there look at an animal like that and just do the calculation as to how much those tusks weigh and how much money they can make from them. There is no value beyond that – no value attributed to the life of one of the most incredible animals we still have living on this planet.”
But Buchanan also said it was important to look beyond simply blaming the poachers.
“It is a very difficult situation where there is abject poverty and where people are driven to do things that may well mean that they lose their lives in pursuit of trying to feed their family.
“The people who are making the money are not the ones who are shot and killed or who will spend their lives in prison, it is just this chain of middle men and buyers from across the globe who only see profit. It’s just awful.”
Buchanan says he will for ever remember his encounter with Satao 2. “When I saw him I couldn’t help but feel proud that I was able to share his majesty by filming him and taking photographs of him. But what made this elephant so special was ultimately what caused his downfall and it’s that that is so desperately sad.”
The BBC is thought to be considering making a new film about Satao’s life and death and the terrible consequences of poaching.