South Africa’s constitutional court has rejected an attempt by the government to keep a ban on the domestic trade in rhino horns.
The ruling that the application be dismissed means that rhino horns can effectively be traded in the country.
Rhino breeders argue that legalising the trade could cut the number of rhinos slaughtered as horns can be sawn off anaesthetised live animals.
However many conservationists disagree with the proposed policy.
The department of environmental affairs said authorities were still considering the implications of Wednesday’s judgment.
“It is important to note that permits are required to sell or buy rhino horn,” the department’s spokesman, Albie Modise, said in a statement.
The ruling only applies to the industry in South Africa as a ban on international trade remains in force.
Rhino breeders who have argued that open trade is the only way to prevent widespread slaughter of the animal welcomed the ruling.
“We are absolutely delighted at the ruling by the constitutional court,” Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA), told AFP news agency.
Breeders also argue that the process is not permanent as the horns grow back.
The Helping Rhinos organisation however tweeted that the ruling was “disastrous”.
South Africa is thought to be home to around 20,000 rhinos, around 80% of the worldwide population. More than 1,000 rhino were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2016.