Cape Town - A group of South African rhino breeders has taken the government to court to overturn the domestic ban on rhino horn sales, the group's chair said on Thursday.Legalising the trade will help to save the threatened species, Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) chairperson Pelham Jones told dpa.Hundreds of South African rhinos are poached each year to meet a large demand for their horn, particularly in Asia, where it is believed to boost sexual potency but also used in traditional medicine to cure cancer and other illnesses.A staggering 1 215 rhinos were slaughtered last year in South Africa, which is, with an estimated 25 000 black and white rhinos, home to the world's largest population of the animal.This was a 21% increase in poaching from the previous year, according to government figures."We clearly see that the trade ban has not diminished poaching in any way. In contrast, it is stimulating the black market trade," said Jones.PROA filed a lawsuit against a 2009 moratorium prohibiting the trade in rhino horn in South Africa. Internationally, sales have been banned since 1977.The association, whose 320 members own about a fifth of the country's rhino population, argues it needs to sell the horn to generate funds for conservation to save the threatened species."Just over 1 000 rhino were killed on private land since 2008," said Jones. "That's R400m worth of rhino lost, plus R300m spent on security to protect them."Private owners were simply out of pocket, added Jones.The legalisation of the domestic trade would mean that rhino horn purchased by commodity speculators would have to be genetically coded and stored in security vaults until the international trade ban is lifted.