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Conservationists meet to discuss fate of endangered species

Cites will look at the illegal wildlife trade which is the fourth largest illicit business in the world.

Elephants. Picture: Freeimages.com

JOHANNESBURG - The threat to the survival of rhino and elephants, hunted for their horns and tusks, will dominate the meeting of conservationists and policymakers from 182 countries starting in Sandton on Saturday.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered species (Cites) is meeting for the first time in South Africa which houses the greatest rhino population on the planet and the second highest number of elephants.

Cites will look at the $20 billion illegal wildlife trade which is the fourth largest illicit business in the world.

It has to decide on whether to toughen or relax trade restriction on 500 species of plants and animals.

Swaziland's proposed an easing of the ban on the sale of rhino horn.

Zimbabwe and Namibia want to be allowed the sell their ivory stockpiles.

Opponents say this would give carte blanche to organised crime controlling this market and will drive rhino and elephant off the endangered list into extinction.