An Indian landowner has willed most of his land to his two elephants, Moti and Rani, a decision that has upset his wife and children.
The 50-year-old Akhtar Imam, from a village in the eastern state of Bihar, said he changed his will to bequeath 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) to his gentle giants Moti (pearl) and Rani (queen).
“I simply don’t want hardship for my Moti and Rani, who are no less my family,” Imam said. “I don’t want my elephants to face the fate of orphaned or abandoned captive elephants who die on the streets or in deserted fields due to lack of proper care.”
Imam’s gesture came as controversy raged in India over the recent death of a pregnant elephant after eating fruit laced with explosives in the southern state of Kerala.
He raised Moti, aged 20, and Rani, aged 15, from when they were born to another domesticated jumbo that has died. Each elephant has two staff looking after them day and night, and roam his property freely.
He said his love for the pair grew even more when they saved him from armed criminals who he said tried to kill him last year while he was sleeping.
“When I opened my door to see why the elephants were trumpeting, I saw they were chasing criminals nearby,” he said. “I am alive due to my elephants, who had worked like bodyguards to me.”
Imam said he would also bequeath a smaller amount of land and his house to his wife and children, but they weren’t entirely happy. “They don’t understand that the elephants are not a showpiece for me. My relationship with my elephants is life-long. We love each other.”
He added: “Human greed is endless, even if you give them the whole world it’s not enough.”
Asian elephants used to roam across most of Asia, but today, they are restricted to 15 percent of their original range.
The species are listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List. Of the 45,000 remaining, about a third live in captivity.