Female northern white rhinos Fatu, 19, left, and Najin, 30, right, the last two northern white rhinos on the planet, graze in their enclosure at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. Picture: Ben Curtis/AP

Geneva - More than 100 countries blocked efforts to loosen a ban on the trade of rhinoceros horns, which has been in place for more than 40 years, at a conference in Geneva on Sunday.

Eswatini, the small southern African kingdom formerly known as Swaziland, had proposed an amendment to allow the sale of its stock in white rhinoceros horns and to exempt the country's 66 white rhinos from the ban.

On Thursday, the meeting of the 183 countries that have signed on to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) already voted down a proposal to ease restrictions on trading elephant ivory.

The decisions taken by the parties to the global conservation pact must be confirmed in the closing days on the conference on August 27-28.

Eswatini had argued that the country and its neighbours in the region have been successful with their conservation drives. While this may not be the case further north, the nation argued that southern Africa should not be punished as a result.

The country had threatened to leave the CITES if it didn't get its way.

Protecting a single rhino from poachers is said to cost 3,500 dollars per year. Eswatini also argued that the rhinos' horns can be removed without harming the animals and that the horns grow back.

But Kenya's representatives countered that rhino horns were not essential items since they are not used in medicines.

There is demand for rhino horn in Asia, where some believe that it has healing qualities, although there is no evidence to support this. Currently, the demand is met through illegal poaching.

A bid by Namibia to ease restrictions on rhino horn trade in that country was also unsuccessful.