Elephants slaughtered
On elephant is killed for its ivory every 15 minutes (Reuters)

One elephant in Africa is slaughtered every 15 minutes to supply the demand for ivory, a rate that will result in the species becoming extinct in 12 years.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick, a conservationist from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust based in the Nairobi National Park, said Kenyan authorities seized four-and-a-half tonnes of ivory in the last two raids, showing the extent of the illegal trade in Africa.

Speaking on World Elephant Day, she said elephants becoming extinct in just over a decade is a "real possibility" if action is not taken to curb the number of animals being killed.

"Today is World Elephant Day but in 12 years' time there may not be any elephants left in Africa to celebrate," She said, according to the Metro.

"A world without elephants is hard to comprehend, but it is a real possibility. Against a submachine gun or poacher armed with a spear, they stand little chance."

Demand for ivory is being spurred by demand in East Asian countries. It is estimated that 36,000 African elephants were slaughtered last year to feed the illegal trade.

"Don't buy ivory," Sheldrick said. "That means all ivory, be it antique or pre-ban, in the UK or on holiday.

Ivory
Ivory seized in the Philippines in June (Reuters)

"Buying ivory only serves to fuel a trade which results in more senseless deaths of these beautiful animals. We can't let man-made extinction be the end of this iconic species.

"I have been ashamed to be a member of the human race in view of how elephants have been treated. Each elephant is an individual, just as are we [sic], and each has its own unique personality. Like us, they are bonded together by family.

"Through hand-rearing more than 140 orphaned elephants, I know these majestic beings are peace-loving animals and can project a sense of compassion beyond their own kind."

At present, there are around 400,000 African elephants and 43,000 Asian elephants left in the world. The highest number of illegal ivory seizures for 23 years was recorded in 2011.

The innaugral World Elephant Day was held last year in a bid to bring attention to the plight of both Asian and African elephants.

Stephen Blake, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, said: "Elephants are simply one more natural resource that is being caught up in human greed on the one hand and human need on the other. We somehow need people to become reacquainted with nature or they can have no clue as the interrelatedness of cause and effect."