A string of strategies to tackle the rise in rhino poaching was put to Parliament's environmental affairs committee on Thursday.
Committee chairperson Johnny de Lange praised the size of the crowd as well as the number of submissions (14) by individuals and organisations.
It was clear from public submissions that rhinos were being let down in at least three ways: a lack of funding, weaknesses in law enforcement and loopholes in the system.
Wilderness Foundation CEO Andrew Muir said it would cost roughly R25 000 a year to adequately protect a rhino from poachers.
"That works out to R500-million a year. I know that money is not going to be forthcoming from national coffers, so the question that has to be asked is where is that money going to come from?
"Look at the amount of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are raising money for rhinos and yet there is no accountability for where the money is going. One has to ask, the villains in this case, are they just the poachers?"
He said it was clear that the state would have to find the funds to help rhino task team enforcement units and provincial conservation agencies.
The foundation's suggestion was to research the trade in horn from rhinos which had died of natural causes.
The World Wildlife Fund African rhino manager Dr Joseph Okori said many people saw the legalisation of rhino horn trade as a "silver bullet".
"This has been based on many economic assumptions, postulations and correlation to other non-sustainable forms of resource utilisation such as the diamond industry," he said.
"Recapitalisation, providing new or additional incentives to the sector in which subsidies are considered and policy adjustments made, would serve a more sustainable way forward."
He said while the country's wildlife legislation was comprehensive and the judicial system astute, there was slow progress in investigations that matched the complexity of the crime.
The Southern African Development Community rhino management group suggested the re-establishment of environmental courts.
The group's head, Mike Knight, said an increase in the successful prosecution and sentencing of couriers, buyers and exporters would act as a deterrent.
The Eastern Cape Tourism Agency said loopholes in the system should be identified and closed, including the acquisition of horn through legal hunting.
"There may be many changes in the regulatory environment that can be relatively easily affected, such as by requiring that conservation officials are present at all hunting events and that they sign off on the hunt," CEO Sybert Liebenberg said in his submission.
A concerned individual, Terry Bengis, said the only solution was to place a moratorium on rhino trade, transport, hunting and anything else that would affect the local population.
"This moratorium must be for at least six months and during that period a count of every single rhino in South Africa needs to be undertaken.
"We also need to understand that whatever rhino parts are stockpiled, no matter where, need to be accounted for."
A group of four conservationists argued that a solution was to address the cause of poaching rather than the symptoms of poaching.
A Rhino Reality awareness and education campaign aimed at Asian countries would help reduce the demand of rhino horn for medicinal purposes, said Galeo Saintz, Zama Ncube and Simon and Jon Morgan.
The campaign would deliver the message through a national televised advertisement with an authoritative Asian celebrity.
It would then use media exposure by inviting Asian journalists and leaders on a seven-day local safari to witness rhino in their natural habitat.
Lastly, it would use social media and film to document Asian celebrities taking part in a 21-day expedition on foot through KwaZulu-Natal.
A total of 448 rhinos were poached in 2011, with 28 more rhinos poached so far in January. The environmental affairs department estimated that 398 rhino would be killed by the end of the year.
It said that illegal trade in rhino horn was worth an estimated $20-billion (about R156.4-billion) annually, and ranked the third most lucrative criminal trade in the world, behind drugs and human trafficking.