It’s the first death anniversary of Machli, an extraordinary tigress who won over the hearts of millions in India and abroad.
Machli, the Tigress Extraordinary
It’s the first death anniversary of Machli, an extraordinary tigress who won over the hearts of millions in India and abroad, those who saw her in person as well as those who watched her on numerous television programmes, documentaries, short films, read volumes of literature, journals, books, and research papers dedicated to her, the Royal Bengal Tigress who made Ranthambore National Park her abode, the subject of many studies and researches on the wildlife.
Machli lived a life less ordinary
Machli was given the sobriquet Lady of the Lakes by late field director Fateh Singh Rathore as she had a fish-shaped mark on her left ear. She had other monikers, like T-16, Queen Mother, Queen of Ranthambore, and Crocodile Killer.
She started hunting at the age of two which is a rather young age for a tigress to start living independently.
Those who followed her life since her birth describe her as a ferocious yet elegant feline. One of them is Anurag Sharma, owner of the wildlife website Tigerwalah.com. Anurag recalls, "For the first three years that I visited Ranthambore, I didn't see a single tiger. And then, I saw Machli and her cubs in 2006. She was the first tiger I ever saw in the wilderness.”
He said about Machli, "Machli is from a different planet. I would say God created tigers, and then He created Machli. Once I saw Machli killing a big Sambhar deer. But being old enough, she didn't have enough strength to drag away the kill. Machli, very intelligently, pulled the kill to a stream which automatically carried it away to the other side. That way, she also managed to remove the scent from her kill so that no other tiger could know about it." This demonstrates the high levels of her intelligence.
Machli the mother
In the year 2003, Ranthambore was hit by a drought. It so happened that a full grown 14-foot-long crocodile ventured into Machli’s territory who was nursing her cubs. Sensing the veritable threat she first put her cubs to safety and returned to fight the huge reptile. She battled the croc for almost 90 minutes and ripped it apart, that too inside the waters of Raj Bagh Lake. According to the onlookers, it was something exceptional and worth to be recorded in the history.
This incident made her a hero straight out of folklore.
Accolades and honours
In 2013, the Indian government issued a commemorative postal cover and stamp to honour Machli.
She found a place on Facebook with several pages dedicated to her. She was also given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) in 2009.
Machli, the outstanding revenue earner
Machhli was the celebrity tigress. Reportedly, she was the world's most-photographed big cat as numerous wildlife lovers and tourists followed her and took many photographs and video footage.
Machhli played a significant role in populating the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, as she was blessed with 11 cubs, including seven females and four males.
According to some estimates, she was responsible for earning the park a huge amount of Rs 65 crores a year for a period of 10 years. That makes Rs 650 crores.
Machli, the last moments
Machli was found in Ama Ghati area in a pitiable condition on August 13, 2016. The forest staff, which cordoned off the area, was monitoring her condition and trying to feed her, but she only consumed water and her condition did not improve. She breathed her last at 9:52 am on August 18 surrounded by a horde of her admirers and forest officials.
For many forest officials, Machli's death was an emotional moment. Often seen hunting and playing around water bodies, experts said her life was a distinct case of evolution in the behaviour of tigers, especially those in Ranthambore.
“Tiger behaviour is evolving and it was best reflected in the case of Machli. She understood the importance of humans and never showed aggression. She was the most photographed tigress ever," said RN Mehrotra, former Field Director of Ranthambore who observed Machli for seven years from 2005 to 2012.
Her cremation was attended by not only field guides and naturalists from Ranthambore Tiger Reserve but also forest officials as well as district officials including the Collector of the area.
Hemraj Meena, a naturalist and guide at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve for 22 years, who had been following Machli's life since 1997, shared that the last rites were carried out as per traditional customs. "Everyone at Ranthambore wanted her cremation to be like one we would carry out for our loved ones. For us guides and even forest department she was like a senior member of our family and hence an extremely emotional moment," he said.
Machli is till date the most popular and the most photographed tigress as per the sources.
“She gave visitors stories to remember,” said Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.