Machli- The Queen Lives Forever
She physically may have ceased to exist & might have been declared dead medically, her body being merged with panchtatvas (five elements) Queen Machli would continue to live forever. The 19-year-old matriarch of the ruling clan of Ranthambore & the longest surviving tiger in the wild Machli passed away on the 18th of August morning at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve her home for life. Both of them had become synonymous with each other in the last decade or so. Machli would continue to live in the hearts and minds of wildlife lovers, photographers, and regular park visitors who visited Ranthambore each year with a wish to get a glimpse of this charismatic tiger. Her clan grows stronger as her bloodline continues to increase further at both Ranthambore & Sariska, it would be worth mentioning the fact that 50% of the tiger population at both Ranthambore & Sariska has a direct linkage to her bloodline. No small achievement by any means.
What made Machli so special was the fact that this Tiger allowed me to understand, document & observe the secret and elusive life of tigers from a close distance over more than a decade. This becomes important because not much documentation & observation was done on the life of tigers for such a continuous period. Some of the unique behaviours observed include her comfort with human presence as she would leave her cubs under the watchful eyes of Phoolchand – the forest guard responsible for tracking this family perhaps they both had learned to trust each other. She had smartly developed the technique of using tourist vehicles to her advantage for stalking & hunting, her unique techniques to hide the kill from male tigers present in her territory around Lakkada & off course her famous fight with the crocodile on 30th June 2003. Perhaps she had killed many more during her lifetime than just this one, I am sure. For the first time, people had observed fully grown tiger cubs suckling milk & so on and on. The list is countless & so are these many first documentation of her life.
While people kept on speculating about her survival each monsoon ever since she was ousted from the lake area by her daughter T17, she continued to surprise everyone including a surprise hiatus for almost 25 days in 2014 only to reappear again safe and sound much to the relief of forest team & visitors. And there she was on next day morning obliging visitors with her sighting as if returning from a block leave.
I had the privilege of seeing her numerous times in the last 10 years post my first sighting of her in 2006, the last sighting being in April 2016 when I saw her on fort road. She was the first tiger in the wilderness sighted by me after a painful wait of 3 years.
For the last few years, she was living in the non-tourism area of the park which is not accessible to tourists but wanting to see this legendary specimen was always a wish list item in the mind of every park visitor.
Rest in peace Queen …for us, you continue to rule Ranthambore & us forever.
Sharing links to previous posts Dedicated to the legendary Queen in case you missed out on reading them: