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Elephants and sharks high on agenda at CITES wildlife convention in Geneva

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File image of elephants in Kenya
File image of elephants in Kenya -
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REUTERS - Barnes, Angela
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Elephant ivory and the fate of mako sharks were high on the agenda at a wildlife conference in Geneva.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulates the buying and selling of species at risk of extinction around the world.

Discussions between the 183 signatories of CITES got underway on Saturday and are set to run until August 28. They will consider 56 proposals covering 36,000 species.

The animals being discussed include pangolins (scaly anteaters) — hunted for their protective scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine — rhinos, Asian big cats, and cheetahs.

Big Cats are on the agenda at the convention in Geneva

Global trade in shark fins is driving demand for mako sharks, guitarfish and wedgefish, driving them to extinction, according to CITES.

African elephants also remain a species of concern — a global ban on ivory sales was imposed in 1989 to curb poaching.

Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are now seeking to open up ivory trade under certain conditions, according to Tom De Meulenaer, chief of CITES scientific services.

De Meulener said southern African countries were arguing that they now manage elephant numbers well.

Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation and a leading conservationist, said: "We are losing 35 thousand elephants on the continent annually so this is not sustainable.

"The numbers are now less than half a million. You do the math. We will have no African elephants left in the next coming centuries so this is a very very big problem for us on the continent."

Watch the full interview with Kaddu Sebunya in the player above

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