The survival of Africa’s elephants is under threat, with estimates suggesting more than 20,000 were killed in 2013, a report says.
The office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) said poaching levels were far above the elephant birth rate.
However, the report said poaching numbers had dropped slightly compared to the previous two years.
Transnational organised crime appeared to be involved in the trade, it added.
Cites, which is based in Geneva, is responsible for regulating the international trade in more than 35,000 species of plants and animals.
“Africa’s elephants continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from high levels of poaching for their ivory,” said Cites Secretary-General John E Scanlon.
The report also documented an increase in the number of large seizures of ivory – of shipments over 500kg (1,100 pounds), in 2013.
For the first time, there were more such seizures in Africa than Asia, with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda accounting for 80% of the seizures, the report said.
“Large-scale ivory seizures are indicative of transnational organised crime being involved in the illicit ivory trade,” a Cites press release said.
While elephant conservationists do believe that increased ivory confiscation is a sign that law enforcement is improving, they also point out that demand for ivory remains very high, says the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.
Conservationists say that even in some of the monitored elephant populations, poaching is actually increasing, our correspondent adds.
The Cites poaching estimates were based on data from 51 sites across Africa, which accounted for 30-40% of the continent’s elephant population.
Figures from those site were extended to estimate the total numbers killed in Africa.