The paper trail set up by the Chinese government to cover the newly regulated ivory products became the perfect cover for illegal traders. A flurry of false documentation branded poached ivory legal for trade and elephants have been slaughtered in greater numbers than ever.
In one case reported by the Environmental Investigation Agency, the employees of a major Chinese ivory distributor were able to register and legalize 'new', or illegal ivory, simply by declaring to provincial customs authorities that they had forgotten to register ivory before the ban, but wanted to "register it now."
According to CITES figures, the number of slain elephants in Africa was estimated at 17,000 in 2011, 7.5% of the continent's elephant population.
Conservation groups say nothing short of a complete ban will halt poaching.
Meanwhile, alternatives such as mammoth ivory -- legal because the mammoth has been extinct for more then 4,500 years -- has done little to stem the poaching, claim experts, instead fueling demand for ivory products.
A report on the mammoth ivory trade commissioned by Care for the Wild in 2010 found that buyers of mammoth ivory were sometimes undiscriminating about the provenance of the piece.
"Some buyers of mammoth ivory items may notice that the quality of elephant ivory is usually superior for larger pieces and may switch to elephant ivory objects, which might encourage more elephant poaching," the report said.
"If mammoth ivory objects were to be introduced into Africa, businessmen might try to use them as a cover for their illegal elephant ivory objects; small items can be difficult to distinguish."
In Hong Kong, one of the main hubs for Russia's $20m-a-year mammoth tusk industry, finding mammoth tusks that are large enough to sculpt is becoming increasingly difficult.
"(Fossickers) can only work in summer because the tundra in Russia is frozen for the rest of the year and even then they're having to dig deeper to get the larger tusks," said one Hong Kong trader who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity surrounding all ivory trade. "It seems like all the bigger, easy-to-get pieces have already been extracted."
Despite the legality of the mammoth tusk industry, he said people still come into his shop on Hong Kong's fine arts and antiques strip on Hollywood Road asking to buy elephant ivory.
"Many times, many times (people ask for ivory). Do they know it's illegal? Some do, some don't," he said.
Conservation groups have now targeted what they call the "gang of eight" nations at the center of the illegal ivory trade -- Kenya, Thailand, Uganda, Tanzania, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and China.
Tom de Meulenaer, a senior CITES official, said the convention's ruling committee had "run out of patience" over the ivory issue and last week it moved to toughen up action against the worst offending countries.
At its final session in Bangkok, CITES delegates approved a decision to demand an action plan from the so-called "gang of eight" to reduce the trade in ivory within 12 months. If these countries do not meet these targets, delegates said, they would likely be hit with sanctions barring their own legal wildlife and plant trades.
TRAFFIC's elephant and rhino expert Tom Milliken said it was time for countries on ivory trade routes to produce blueprints for curbing the ivory trade.
"We've seen trade in illegal ivory double since 2007 and the illegal killing of elephants double since 2005. We're really at the highest levels of illegal killings and illegal trade in two decades," Milliken told CNN. "There is a general sense that things are beginning to spin out of control."
He said that while Chinese demand was driving the trade due to its increased economic power and its history of ivory consumption, no other country was doing more in terms of making seizures.
"Unfortunately, it's just not yet registering a deterrent effect," he said.