Machli. The tiger queen of the wilderness of Ranthambore. A majestic Royal Bengal Tigress who dominated the prime habitat of the forest for years on end.
Scores of tourists would gather watching Machli taking a nap in broad daylight. She would move a toe or two, enticing onlookers, who were instantly sent into a frenzy at one glance of the tigress.
The tigress inherited her name from her mother, Machli I. Born in 1997, she is considered the world’s most famous and photographed tiger who would captivate photographers with her grace, her elegance. Such was the grandeur of the tigress, her death made headlines in the country and beyond.
Machli: The Mother
Machli once killed a crocodile twice her size when it threatened its cubs. A fiercely protective mother, she would do anything to ensure the safety of her little ones. When adult males ventured into her territory, she would rise and chase away the intruders away from her litter at once.
Tigers usually produce 2-3 litters, but Machli had 4, giving birth to 11 cubs total, comprising 7 females and 4 males. Her progeny later increased the tiger population of the Ranthambore National Park – more than half the number of tigers in the park are of her lineage.
Two of Machli’s offsprings were later relocated to the Sariska Tiger Reserve, which had lost all its tigers to rampant poaching. The forest is now alive, once again, thanks to Machli’s progeny who helped boost the tiger population in the Sariska reserve as well.
Machli: The Powerful Huntress
A huntress par excellence, Machli was known for her hunting skills and strength. Her prowess as an exemplary hunter could be seen when she was in her prime, and later, even when she grew older.
Her valour earned her the titles of ‘Lady of the Lakes’, ‘Crocodile Killer’, ‘Tigress Queen of Ranthambore’, and the ‘Queen Mother of Tigers’.
A Tiger Saved is The Jungle Saved
Machli’s life serves to illustrate how a single tiger, when protected, can populate an entire forest. She sustained tourism, almost single-handedly, commanding great respect and awe from visitors across the globe.
The acclaimed wildlife filmmaker S Nallamuthu spent nine years of his life following every single move of the queen. He recalls how he shared a special bond with the tigress; he was there by her side even when she breathed her last: a deeply saddening moment that brought tears to everyone’s eyes. His documentation forms the core of his film, ‘The World’s Most Famous Tiger’, which was telecast on the National Geographic channel this Feb 26.
The Legacy Lives On
Machli’s contribution to Ranthambore cannot be expressed in words. She was honoured with a postal cover and stamp issued by the Indian Government in the year 2013 commemorating her contribution to tourism and ecology.
So immense was her contribution to the tourism at the Ranthambore National Park that upon her demise on August 18, 2016 at the ripe age of 19 years, she was cremated in observation of all traditional Indian rituals with full state honours.
Machli might have left her mortal body, but, her legacy lives on. Arrowhead, who belongs to the queen’s lineage, was recently spotted in the reserve with her newborn cubs. Machli still lives in her progeny and will continue to inspire generations of men and women.