Kenya's Tsavo East National Park has lost another one of its iconic "big tuskers", a tragic knock to the region's dwindling population of these unique elephants.

In its monthly report, local conservation organisation Tsavo Trust confirmed the killing of "Satao 2", named after a famous predecessor who was killed by poachers a few years ago.

Left: Satao 2 pictured in early December. Right: Satao 2's carcass was found during an aerial patrol on January 4, 2017. Image: Tsavo Trust

The carcass of Satao 2 was found last month with its tusks still intact during a routine aerial patrol of the area by the Tsavo Trust team and the Kenya Wildlife Service. It's thought the elephant died while feeding near the park boundary in late December last year.

Like his namesake, Satao 2 is thought to have died from poisoning, but this has yet to be confirmed. His remains, however, were found near a known hotspot for elephant poachers who use lethal poisoned arrows. "The cause of death is not 100% confirmed but it is believed he succumbed from an attempted poaching via poisoned arrow," writes the Trust.

Following the discovery, wildlife officials launched an investigation into reports of a poaching gang operating in the area, which led to the arrests of two suspects and the recovery of firearms, poisoned arrows and other equipment.

"Although this is a very sad loss in every way, we can take some positive from this in that Satao 2'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," notes the Trust.

Along with members of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Tsavo Trust team recovered Satao 2's tusks, which weighed 51kg and 50.5kg (112lbs and 111lbs) respectively. Image: Tsavo Trust

The original Satao, who was thought to be the largest tusker surviving in Africa at the time, was killed back in May of 2014. The death came as a painful blow to conservationists, and helped to highlight the growing threats facing Africa's elephants. Poaching has reached levels not seen on the continent since the 1970s and 1980s, causing alarming population declines in some countries.

The tuskers of Tsavo East, one of Kenya's oldest and largest national parks, boast unique genes that produce tusks enormous enough to reach the ground. The park is part of the vast Tsavo Conservation Area, which is home to the highest concentration of these animals in the world. Although such giants once roamed across much of Africa, there are fewer than 30 left today. According to the BBC, another 16 individuals within Tsavo could reach big-tusker status within the next decade, making this a crucially important gene pool.

Sadly, the same feature that makes these animals such an awe-inspiring tourist attraction is also a draw for poachers, and Tsavo has been experiencing a spike in incidents. Just last week, a Kenya Wildlife Services officer was killed and a ranger injured in a shootout with poachers. Three other recently poached elephants were located near the site of Satao 2's carcass in early January.

The Tsavo Trust runs a campaign to highlight the importance of preserving Africa's big tuskers. You can read about it here.