Satao killed in ivory poaching attack in Kenya
Satao, believed to be the biggest elephant in Africa, was renowned for his long tasks. Tsavo Trust

What was believed to be Africa's biggest elephant has died after being attacked by poachers with poisoned arrows.

Satao, renowned for his long tusks, was slain in Kenya's southeastern Tsavo national park. He was found dead, with his tusks hacked off. The elephant was believed to be 45 years old.

The Tsavo Trust, which works in support of wildlife in Kenya, announced the death "with great sadness" for one of the "most iconic and well-loved tuskers".

On its Facebook page, the NGO wrote: "News of the death of Satao was a sad day for Kenya. It is devastating news for elephants and those who care about them. We didn't do enough for him, and we are failing his kind. The few iconic Tsavo bulls that remain deserve presidential protection."

Richard Moller, of the Tsavo Trust, said: "There is no doubt that 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 mantelpiece."

The death of Satao comes at a time when elephants' survival is threatened due to extensive poaching activity in Africa.

According to a report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), at least 20,000 elephants were killed last year. Poaching levels are far higher than the birth rate of elephants.

Despite overall poaching numbers being lower in 2013 than in 2012 and 2011, the report warned that poaching levels will lead to continuing declines in the African elephant population.

The report also documented an increase in the number of large seizures of ivory (shipments over 500 kg) in 2013.

"For the first time, the number of such seizures made in Africa exceeded those made in Asia. Just three African countries — Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda — accounted for 80% of those seizures," the report said. "Large-scale ivory seizures are indicative of transnational organised crime being involved in the illicit ivory trade."

Kenyan Al-Shabaab terrorists have been linked to the mass slaughter of African elephants and ivory poaching.

According to a report by US think tank Stimson Centre: "The illegal wildlife trade is larger than the illicit trafficking of small arms, diamonds, gold and oil."

Last month, more than 20 elephants were killed during a poaching attack at Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A similar incident occurred in 2013.

The attacks are believed to be carried out by local the terrorist group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).