The mighty African elephant may become extinct in just 15 years’ time due to the illegal ivory trade, unless steps are taken to arrest unrestricted poaching.

Poachers slaughter 104 elephants every day for their valuable tusks and the International Fund for Animal Welfare has warned that unless immediate action was taken, the animals would disappear from the wild within a generation, the Sunday Express reported.

In fact, conservationists are demanding an international crackdown on the ivory industry some 20 years after it was supposedly prohibited. The worldwide illegal trade in wildlife is third only to drugs and arms, and is worth an estimated £12.5 billion a year.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare is calling on the European Union and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to stop supporting occasional supervised ivory sales.

Instead, they are urged to back Kenya’s proposal to extend the current “resting period” on elephant and ivory decisions from nine to 20 years at the next CITES meeting in March 2010.

Robbie Marsland, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “Most people will be shocked to hear that, 20 years after the ban on the 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.”

Illegal ivory is now used as currency in East African conflicts in much the same way as “blood diamonds” were in civil wars across West Africa in the 1990s. The demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly China, has reached record levels, the newspaper said.

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.