International conservation measures were not able to significantly reduce poaching of African elephants last year, when more than 20,000 animals were killed to harvest their ivory, according to the international endangered species watchdog Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Last year’s figures were similar to 2012, the secretariat of the CITES said in a report in Geneva.
“Africa’s elephants continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from high levels of poaching for their ivory,” CITES secretary general John Scanlon said, noting that illegal killings exceed natural growth rates.
The report noted, however, that an upward trend in illegal elephant killings was stopped in 2011.
For the first time last year, more ivory was seized in Africa than in Asian destination countries.
A majority of the seizures were made in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
These three major source countries of ivory had been told by CITES last year to take stronger action to protect elephants.
Meanwhile, the main consumer and transit countries — China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines — were urged to step up the fight against the ivory trade.
The CITES report also noted that there are signs that illegal killings of Asian elephants is on the rise, although there is no comprehensive data from Asian countries.
The rising trade in wild Asian elephants for Chinese circuses and the Thai tourist industry poses a further threat, CITES reported.