A man in India offered his son as collateral in exchange for a gun and ammunition. His intention was to kill an Indian one-horned rhinoceros and sell its ivory horn.

Nurjamal Rahman expected to kill a rhino and then sell the horn for ₹50 lakh (about $73,000 USD). But to carry out his plan, he needed a firearm and ammunition. He connected with an arms trader and they set up a deal. The dealer required Nurjamal to pay ₹3 lakh (~$4,500 USD) up front to rent the firearm and ammunition, but then added an additional requirement that he also provide collateral to guarantee the return of the leftover ammunition and firearm. And that collateral had to be in “human form.”

So Nurjamal offered his 12-year-old son for a three-month mortgage period, in which he hoped to kill a rhino in Orang National Park. The area was designated as a sanctuary in 1985 and declared a national park in 1999.  It is home to many animals including great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, elephants, and tigers.

Police caught Nurjamal and two associates before they were able to kill an animal.

India’s northeastern state of Assam, where the park is located, has an estimated 2,610 Indian one horned rhinoceros. Orang National Park has an estimated 68 rhinos left. Also known as the greater one horned rhino, these are the biggest rhinoceros on the planet.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were only 200 greater one horned rhinos left alive. Poaching had decimated their population. The animal was on the brink of extinction. But thanks to strong oversight and law enforcement fighting poachers, their population has recovered (though according to the World Wildlife Fund they are still classified as vulnerable). Today populations have increased to about 3,500 from northeastern India to Nepal.

Rhinoceros are beautiful, playful creatures. Unfortunately, humans have decided their horns are worth a substantial amount of money. This story is encouraging in that it illustrates the strong work by the Indian government, but it is also sad as it shows the extreme choices some individuals make in seeking to kill an animal for profit.