The South African government says a court has denied its appeal of an earlier ruling that lifted a ban on the domestic trade in rhino horn.

An official with South Africa's environment ministry on Thursday confirmed the Pretoria court's ruling, which some conservationists say will further endanger a rhino population that has been heavily targeted by poachers.

The ministry official was not authorized to speak to the media and confirmed the ruling on condition of anonymity.

In November, a South African judge rescinded a moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horns, saying the government had failed to properly consult the public before imposing the ban in 2009.

South Africa is home to most of the world's rhinos. Poachers have been killing them in record numbers for their horns.