The proposed legalization of international trade in rhinoceros horn is a hotly debated topic. South Africa is home to a large proportion of Africa's black Diceros bicornis and white rhinoceroses Ceratotherium simum populations. Private owners are custodians of c. 25% of the country's rhinoceroses, and the introduction of legal trade in horn harvested from live rhinoceroses may therefore have significant implications for the private conservation industry. This study explores perceptions of legal trade in rhinoceros horn, and its potential implications for reserve management, among rhinoceros owners and conservation practitioners from private game reserves in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Twenty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with key informants from 17 private game reserves (c. 37% of the total number of reserves with rhinoceroses). Whereas rhinoceros owners were mostly in favour of trade, opinion among non-owners was more nuanced. Owners expressed more interest in trading in live rhinoceroses, and stockpiled horn from natural mortalities, than in sustainably harvesting rhinoceros horn for trade. Informants therefore predicted that they would not change their practices significantly if the trade were legalized. However, most informants had little confidence that CITES would lift the trade ban. The perspectives of private reserve owners and managers should be taken into account in South African and international policy discussions relating to the legal trade in rhinoceros horn.