Africa is divided over whether to sell the ivory of its elephants, whose continent-wide population has plummeted because of poaching.

Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa will argue for the right to sell ivory at an international wildlife conference that starts Saturday in Johannesburg. They are opposed by about 30 African countries that want to tighten an international ban on the ivory trade.

China, the world's main ivory consumer, says it plans to close its domestic market.

The pro-trade countries say their elephant populations are large and that funds from ivory sales can be invested in conservation. Namibia, however, says it does not expect the Johannesburg talks to go in its favor.

Some 3,500 delegates are expected for the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.