JOHANNESBURG — A rhino breeder in South Africa who held what he called the world’s first legal online auction of rhino horns says there were fewer bidders and sales than expected.

However, a law firm representing breeder John Hume said Saturday that the two-day auction sets the stage for future sales. It says “very few” bidders signed up because they had fewer than two days to register after a court ordered the South African government to grant a selling permit to Hume.

Hume says a legal trade will undercut rhino poaching. Critics believe it will spur demand and tempt poachers to launder horns into the legal trade.

While the court opened the way to a domestic trade in rhino horn, South Africa says it respects an international trade ban dating to 1977.