First legal rhino horn auction attracts few buyers after outrage

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A controversial online auction selling rhinoceros horn may have been dealt a blow by the outrage, attracting fewer bidders than the organisers anticipated.

It was the first legal auction of rhino horn in South Africa, with around 500kg on sale, and was organised by private rhino farm owner John Hume.

He argued legal rhino horn trading was better than aid to help protect the species from poachers, and he has more than 1500 rhinos he breeds and harvests the horns from.

The auction lasted three days and ended on Saturday (local time), but after all the controversy, it fell flat.

"The auction yielded fewer bidders and fewer sales than anticipated, but the legal domestic trade has now been re-established and the road has been paved for future sales," his lawyers said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

Around 264 pieces of horn, totalling in weight at 500kg, were on auction. The organisers said all bidders were required to get legal permits in order to participate.

Conservation groups argued the auction proceeds were going to fuel poaching, with a legal challenge forcing the sale to be delayed by two days.

Mr Hume claimed legally selling horn would in fact curb poaching, denying it would accelerate demand and lead to more deaths.

Instead, he said it could be a "sustainable trade", harvesting horn as it regrows, sedating the rhino and trimming the horn in a "painless" procedure.

South Africa removed the ban on domestic sales of rhino horn in April this year.