Conservationists have urged internet giant Google to remove thousands of advertisements for ivory that have helped fuel illicit trade in wildlife products.

Google came under fire for its alleged role in the illicit trade of elephant ivory following a probe by campaign group Environmental Investigation Agency revealing that the web giant hosts around 10,000 adverts for ivory products on one of its major shopping sites.

The Google ads are helping fuel a surge in elephant tusk trafficking from sub-Saharan Africa to Asian countries, the group added.

Most of the elephant ivory ads are for “hanko” or Japanese signature stamps, described as a “major demand driver” for ivory trade.

EIA have appealed in a letter to Google CEO Larry Page to remove the ads for elephant ivory and more than 1,400 ads promoting whale products.

“While elephants are being mass slaughtered across Africa to produce ivory trinkets, it is shocking to discover that Google, with the massive resources it has at its disposal, is failing to enforce its own policies designed to help protect endangered elephants,” US President of EIA Allan Thornton said.

Google seemed to downplay the allegations. “Ads for products obtained from endangered or threatened species are not allowed on Google,” a spokesman said. “As soon as we detect ads that violate our advertising policies, we remove them.”

The appeal comes as the 178-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meets in Bangkok this week with illegal wildlife trade at the top of the agenda.

Illicit trade in wildlife products, particularly ivory, has claimed the lives of up to 30,000 African elephants each year.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has pledged to end ivory trade in her country by closing a loophole that allows poachers to smuggle African elephant tusks undetected.