THE sight of elephants trekking trunk-to-tail across the Saharan Plains may soon be lost from African landscapes because of the illegal ivory trade, conservation experts have warned. The colossal mammal is being ruthlessly slaughtered to extinction by ivory poachers with the population - currently 600,000 - diminishing by 38,000 a year. These figures, calculated using the annual num-ber of illegal tusk seizures, significantly exceed elephant birth rates meaning the species could face extinction entirely within 15 years, says Samuel Wasser of the Scientific American Journal. The worldwide illegal trade in wildlife is valued at 10s of billions of American dollars (12.5billion) and is believed to have the same significance now as the blood-diamond trade during the peak of the African civil wars. In 2006, 11 metric tonnes of illegal ivory were seized from ships bound for Taiwan and Japan. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says immediate action needs to be taken. The group calls for EU and CITES members (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to stop supporting legal ivory sales. Instead, they urge members to back Kenyas proposal to extend the current resting period on elephant and ivory sales from nine to 20 years at the next CITES meeting in March 2010. This alarming level of illegal hunting could drive the African elephant to extinction across much of Africa in just 15 years, said Robbie Marsland, director of IFAW UK. - Daily Telegraph He added: Most people will be shocked to hear that, 20 years on from a ban on international ivory trade, elephants in Africa are still threatened by commercial poaching. The ivory trade must be banned once again, and comprehensively, if we want to prevent the extinction of elephants. Sadly, the truth is that ivory trade anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere. Chads Zakouma National Park had 3,885 elephants in 2005 but by 2009 the figure had plummeted to just 617. At least 11 rangers were killed by poachers there over the same period. Elephants are not alone in the illegal trafficking of wildlife parts. In the last few years, 55,000 reptile skins from India, 19,000 big-eye thresher shark fins in Ecuador and 23 metric tonnes of pangolin in Asia have all been seized. - Daily Telegraph