The race to protect the world's rhino, elephant and shark populations from the bloody trade in animal body parts will be at the heart of key endangered species talks in Bangkok from Sunday.
In its first meeting since 2010, delegates from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) will meet to assess levels of protection for animals and plants, as wildlife organisations warn of an increasingly desperate fight against poaching networks.
Rhinos and elephants are already listed as protected species and their international trade is banned, with some exceptions. But poaching has reached alarming levels in recent years, leading to calls for stricter new measures.
Host nation Thailand itself looks set to be at the heart of discussions.
Seen as a hub for traffickers of all endangered species, the kingdom has been singled out for allowing the legal sale of Asian elephant ivory in its territory.
Conservationists say criminals exploit this trade to sell illicit stocks of African ivory - which is practically impossible to differentiate from that of Asian elephants.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched a petition to ban all trade in ivory in the kingdom. It has already received half a million signatures that were presented to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Wednesday.
Since coming into force in 1975, Cites has placed some 35,000 species of animal and plants under its protection, tightly controlling and monitoring their international trade.
The 177 countries who have signed up to the convention - and must undertake measures to implement its decisions at home - will be seeking to add certain names to the protected list during the meeting at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, which ends on March 14.
With poaching continuing to devastate some species, there will also be pressure to find tougher tactics to curb the networks supplying voracious demand from Asia, where wild animal parts are sought as trophies and for their supposed medicinal properties. More....