China's increasing demand for ivory will lead to the extinction of wild elephants within one generation, conservationists have warned.
Campaign groups Save the Elephants and The Aspinall Foundation said in a report that at least 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa between 2010 and 2012.
"Skyrocketing demand for ivory in China - the wholesale price of raw elephant tusks has tripled in just four years since 2010 - have sparked a booming trade in smuggled ivory that is driving the unsustainable killing of elephants in Africa," said the report.
"Every metric on the ivory trade has exploded upwards in recent years. The prices of raw and worked ivory in China, number of licensed carving factories, retail outlets both illegal and legal, items on sale, all have shot up.
"Meanwhile the weight of ivory seized and number of elephants being killed in Africa have also increased."
The report added that many shops in China do not have a licence to sell ivory products and at least 26.5% of the items sold in Beijing and Shanghai were illegal.
"China faces enormous challenges in law enforcement to control the ivory trade, as the number of rich business people in the country with interest in buying ivory continues to increase," the report added.
The Chinese government committed to help ending elephant poaching in Africa and said it closed down several illegal shops and jailed "hundreds of dealers".
However the NGOs said the efforts have to be stepped up.
"Ever-growing numbers of Chinese contract workers are going to Africa and buying increasing quantities of illegal ivory to smuggle."
Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, was quoted by AFP as saying, "China holds the key to the future of elephants. Without China's leadership in ending demand for ivory Africa's elephants could disappear from the wild within a generation."
The report came a few months after conservationists warned that both elephants and rhinos will be extinct by 2034 if poaching is not halted.
The NGO Global March for Elephant and Rhinos, which organises marches worldwide to raise awareness on the poaching issue, says a rhino is slaughtered every 9-11 hours for its horn, while an elephant every 14 minutes for its tusks.