The world's biggest rhino breeder plans to this week announce what will happen to a ranch where an eighth of the world's white rhinos live after an auction for the property and its animals failed to attract any firm bids.
Negotiations will now be held with parties that indicated interest and a statement will be made at the close of business on May 5, the Platinum Rhino Project, which is about 155 kilometers (96 miles) southwest of Johannesburg, said in a statement.
The sale of the about 2,000 endangered rhinos, equipment and the land comes as South Africa fights to protect the animals in its nature reserves against illegal hunters who have decimated the wild population.
John Hume, the owner of the ranch, failed in his attempts to legalize the trade in rhino horns - which can be sawed off the live animals and grow back - rendering the project too costly to keep running, the company has said.
The trade is banned as its use in East Asia for alleged cancer cures and virility boosters led to an illicit market that caused rampant poaching.
The online auction began on April 26 and closed on May 1.
"We have now entered a period of consideration of all the offers of intent and John Hume will be holding personal discussions with these parties," Platinum Rhino said.
Illegal killings reached a peak of more than 1,200 in 2014 and a drought the next year further decimated the population in the Kruger National Park, where the bulk of the country's rhinos live. South African National Parks' 2020 annual report, in which the results of a census were announced, showed the park had only 3,549 white rhinos.
The animals at the ranch are southern white rhino, one of two subspecies. The northern white rhino is virtually extinct.
At Platinum Rhino, the animals roam the ranch and are given additional food. There is also an orphanage to take care of calves if they are sick or if their mother has died.