Ranthambhore’s most celebrated tigress of all time
Sep 18 2013
In fact, more than half of the tiger population of Rajasthan’s two tiger reserves — Ranthambhore and Sariska are Machali’s linage. In Sariska, there was massive tiger poaching, after which it had lost all its tigers and the authorities introduced tigers from Ranthambhore. Two female cubs of Machali were introduced to repopulate Sariska.
Machali is about 17 years old today; the oldest tigress in Ranthambhore. Ranthambhore is the driest and hottest tiger habitat of the world where tigers have naturally survived. However, Machali’s domain has been the richest in prey base and has had three lakes that provide plenty of water in the area. Deep gorges and dense green narrow valleys provide an ideal habitat for tigers, but Machali has been ruling this habitat for many years. She has held the prime habitat of the reserve for almost 10-11 years, which got her to be nicknamed as the ‘lady of the lakes’. When she was in her prime, no other tiger dared to challenge this mighty tigress; she ruled the lake area and would not even shy from fighting crocodiles who would try to snatch her meals. Tourists have been witness to such phenomenal episodes in Ranthambhore’s wild history.
Machali delivered four different litters and raised them successfully to matuity. Her first litter was two male cubs called broken tail and slant ear. Broken tail moved 150 kilometres away from the park and died in a train collision, while the other went missing. In the next litter, she delivered two cubs, a male and a female. The male cub called ‘jhumroo’ still roams in the park and has fathered half of the young tigers of Ranthambhore, while her female cub — ‘jhumari’ went missing. She was possibly poached during 2004-05. Machali delivered two cubs yet again — a male and a female, it is her third litter. A Bollywood film influenced their name and a tourist driver/guide coined this new name for them — Bunty and Bubbli. Sighting of forth litter of Machali was a very surprising event for us. By that time, she had lost few canines and we were not expecting more cubs from her. This time, she delivered three female cubs. Scientifically advanced department gave them code number T17, T18 and T19.
Machali has given a lot to Ranthambhore National Park, both ecologically and economically. Today, the government has decided to release a postal stamp of Machali. Rajasthan’s chief minister, Ashok Gehlot and forest minister, Bina Kak is going to release it soon.
(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)