African elephants could be extinct within 15 years because of the illegal ivory trade, conservation experts have warned. In 2006, 11 metric tonnes of illegal elephant ivory were seized from ships bound for Taiwan and Japan. The population � currently 600,000 � is diminishing by 38,000 each year. These figures, calculated using the annual number 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 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says immediate action needs to be taken. "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. 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." Chad's 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.