The group's report shows an increase in seizures of ivory, particularly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and Secretary-General John Scanlon said organized crimes and African insurgent militias are heavily involved in the illegal ivory trade.
"We are still seeing the elephant populations in decline, which means that the levels of illegal killing are exceeding the natural birthrates. But, overall, the population of the African elephant is in decline. However, the upward trends we saw that became very sharp in 2010 and 2011 in terms of the levels of illegal killing have started to level off. But, at a level that is far too high; namely we still have over 20,000 African elephants killed per year," Scanlon said.
He called on nations to treat elephant poaching and the ivory trade as serious crimes.
"This is a serious crime. It needs to be treated as a serious crime and we need to deploy the same sorts of techniques that are used to combat other serious crimes, such as illicit trade in narcotics or human trafficking or illicit trade in arms," he said.
CITES is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and is funded by the United Nations Environment Program.