President Jacob Zuma will today open the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at the Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg.

The CITES COP17 conference, which will run until 5 October, will be attended by 3 500 delegates, including ministers and government representatives from the member countries, representatives from Inter-Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society and other stakeholders.

The CITES is an international agreement between governments which regulates international trade in wild fauna and flora.

Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

"Regulations must ensure that trade of animals such as rhinos and wild ginger is in a way that ensures that future generations continue to benefit from them, and that they do not become extinct.

"Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future," the Presidency said on Friday.

South Africa offered to host CITES COP17 at the 16th COP that took place in March 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.

It will be the fourth to be held on the African continent since 1975, and the first on the Continent since 2000.

According to the Presidency, the Conference will afford South Africa an opportunity to showcase its rich biodiversity and successful conservation initiatives based on sustainable use management practices.

"This has resulted in the country becoming one of the leading conservation countries in the world today and having saved species such as the black and white rhino and elephant from near extinction in the past century.

"It will also provide the country with an opportunity to influence decision-making relating to the international trade in endangered species; highlight the importance of these activities in sustaining livelihoods and economies; and emphasise the negative impact of illegal wildlife trade on among other things, species conservation, socio-economic issues and security," the Presidency said.

Topical issues such as interventions to address the poaching of elephant; the proposed listing of elephant, lion, rosewood species and sharks; as well as the illegal trade in rhino horn and pangolin, are expected to be on the agenda.