Legendary tigress Machli, also known as the Queen of Ranthambore, finally succumbed to old age on Friday morning ending her love affair with Rajasthan’s Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
The 19-year-old tigress, one of the most photographed in the world, was reported dead around 9.50 am on the fringe of the park, close to a densely forested patch near a luxury resort that became her last territory.A well known identification mark,” A fork or fish gills-like mark on her left Cheek”.
Hemraj Meena, who has been a guide and naturalist at Ranthambore for 22 years now and had been following Machli’s life since 1997, said that Machli was found in a bamboo patch and since there was no movement for a long time forest officials checked on her to find that she was no more. “The patch was immediately cordoned off and a team of Vets and top forest officials are being awaited for carrying out the necessary formalities. The carcass will also be sent for post-mortem after which a proper cremation will be carried out,” he said.
Meena said that the cremation for Machli would be carried out in a proper way because, apart from being a legend, she was like the godmother of the entire forest. “All guides and forest staff want a proper cremation for her just like we would do for any other family member,” he said.
There was a huge emotional outburst on social media on the news of her death. Several wildlife photographers and enthusiasts shared their best pictures of Machli in her prime.
As per senior forest officials from Ranthambore, Machli, who was also known as T-16, had been keeping unwell and was being monitored by a team of staff and vets.
She is known to be the oldest living tigress in wild and her fame has been such that she has been drawing tourists from all over the globe. In fact, as per wildlife photographer Aditya Singh, she was named ‘Machli’ by Colin Patrick Stafford-Johnson, a cinematographer who went on to do five documentaries on her after he spotted what looked like an ‘angel fish’ on her cheek.
“Her most famous and remembered wildlife encounter is the one where she not only fought but also killed a 14-foot long crocodile. She is a legend and will remain the undisputed queen of Ranthambore even if she is gone. In spite of being in her prime, even in this season, she was most sought after as a lot of tourists feel that unless they have seen Machli their journey to Ranthambore remains incomplete,” said a park guide, adding that almost half of the tigers from Ranthambore belong to her lineage.
Machli had lost all her canine teeth during her fight with the crocodile and sources say she was given baits to ensure she did not die due to hunger. She even had a dedicated team that used to keep a track of her movements.
“She was a big crowd-puller and, hence, even the Rajasthan government used to keep a tab on her well-being because she was India’s celebrity tiger. In fact in early 2014, she was thought to be dead, spreading panic when she was not spotted for close to 26 days but soon she emerged,” said a forest official. However, he added, this time seeing her condition, it was difficult to believe that she would cheat death yet again.
Her fame is such that she has a postage stamp, several short film/documentaries to her name and several Facebook pages dedicated to her.