NAIROBI, Kenya — The price of ivory in China has dropped sharply as the country plans to end the legal trade in ivory later this year, a leading elephant conservation group said in a new report Wednesday.

Chinese demand for tusks has been driving African elephants toward extinction, experts say. The Chinese government in recent years has taken steps to stop the trade in ivory, which is used for ornamentation and souvenirs. China’s ivory factories are to be shut down by Friday, followed by the closing of retail outlets by the end of this year.

The new report surveys the price of ivory in markets across China between 2014 and early this year. It found the price dropped from $2,100 per kilogram in early 2014 to $730 in February.

Conservationists say tens of thousands of elephants have been killed in Africa in recent years as demand for ivory in Asia, particularly China, increased. Past estimates of Africa’s elephant population have ranged from 420,000 to 650,000. Some conservationists estimate that up to 20,000 elephants are killed by poachers every year.

“This is a critical period for elephants,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of Save the Elephants, which carried out the research.

“With the end of the legal ivory trade in China, the survival chances for elephants have distinctly improved.”