The long-awaited ivory sales ban in Britain has been delayed by two months.
Conservationists are “extremely disappointed” because more elephants are being killed to suit consumer demand for tusk ornaments.
Ministers say they need more time to fix technical issues, but critics say preparation should have begun sooner.
Every year, thousands of elephants are murdered, putting the species in jeopardy.
According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, the UK exports the most legal ivory.
Hundreds of ivory objects are still crossing hands in the UK, with new ivory being passed off as ancient, allowing the killings to continue.
The Ivory Act, which limits imports, exports, and sales, was signed into law three years ago on Monday.
But a court challenge, which was dismissed, and a government consultation on how to execute the law delayed its implementation for nearly two years.
The EU Commission proposed further ivory trading restrictions last week, bringing an EU ban closer.
Now, three years after the measure was passed, the ban has been delayed again.
Lord Goldsmith, the animal welfare minister, blames "technical obstacles in implementing a digital registration and certification system for trading in exempted ivory".
His letter to The Independent reads: “In the Animal Welfare Action Plan, I committed to adopting the Act by the end of this year, and to enforcing the ban in spring 2022.
Officials have been working on a computerised registration and certification system for exempted ivory to achieve this.
A system that does not operate or is not as near to the law as required to achieve one of the strongest ivory bans in the world could be introduced if the current deadline is followed.
The Ivory Act will now be implemented in February 2022, with the registration and certification service for exempted ivory commencing in February 2020.
That the digital service for exempted ivory is robust and meets the Act's standards.
It was still planned for spring.
But the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) expressed disappointment and worried legislation softening.
According to recent parliamentary inquiries, persons will be able to “gift, donate, or bequeath items” to others.
“We are concerned that unethical traders will continue to buy and sell ivory,” Mr Sawyer told Lord Goldsmith.
It is also refusing to develop a destruction or donation system for people who no longer want to possess their ivory and want to ensure it does not return on the market.
He added several ivory owners had begged the charity to destroy their pieces to prevent further profiteering.
It took Ifaw 12 days to find 913 ivory goods for sale in the UK this year.
Ifaw says it has constantly advocated for an ivory donation process.
“Our ivory prohibition is one of the harshest in the world, and it will come into force as promised in spring 2022,” a government spokesperson stated.