A key conference opened Saturday in Johannesburg to discuss eventual changes to trade controls on some of the world's most endangered animal species, ranging from elephants to sharks.
More than 2,000 delegates from 183 countries were attending the 17th meeting of the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which runs through October 5.
In force since 1975, CITES provides protection to more than 35,000 plant and animal species.
The Johannesburg conference will consider dozens of proposals to combat illegal trade and improve the sustainability of legal trade.
Species on the agenda include African elephants and rhinoceroses, lions and tigers, pangolins, African grey parrots, sharks and rays, as well as plants such as rosewood.
The conference takes place amid reports that Africa's elephant populations have declined dramatically after poaching experienced a new upsurge in 2006.
Conservationists are campaigning against proposals by Zimbabwe and Namibia to be exempted from the global ban on ivory trade.
They are also concerned by a proposal by Swaziland to be allowed to sell rhino horn.
Proposals deemed most likely to succeed include those to step up the protection of sharks and rays, some sub-species of which have declined rapidly in recent decades.
Trade in wild animals and plants is worth an estimated 323 billion dollars annually, according to the organization Pro Wildlife.