Anyone who has ever visited the Ranthambore National Park knows about this magnificent creature, which is known to the tiger-lovers across the globe as Machli. The matriarch royal Bengal tigress of Ranthambore is also known by the name Tigress Queen of Ranthambore, a title that amply depicts her celebrity status.
The oldest tigress to survive in the wild, Machhli was born in a litter of three female cubs in May 1997. She was apparently the most dominant cub since the very beginning. She started hunting when she was as young as two years old, and immediately after becoming completely independent she valiantly took over her mother’s territories, establishing a new era in the Ranthambore National Park, witness of which will be the whole world.
Soon it was clear that Machhli was no ordinary tigress. She expanded her territory, including all the vital parts of the Park that includes the great Raj Bagh Talao and other lakes, the place where most of the animals of the park came to satiate their thirst, an easy hotspot of preys!
This most photographed tigress was a delight for wildlife photographers. Not only was she camera-friendly (she used to give valiant poses in front of camera, never having showed any signs of aggression or intimidation from tourists and photographers alike), but also was easily sighted on ideal sites like the ruins and lakeshore.
This territory of the park Machhli defended for over a decade, where the highest average record time is only of 7 to 8 years. During this highly appreciable reign, Machhli did something that earned her global recognition for the first time.
On one hot afternoon of June, 2013, Machhli was sighted, and recorded, trying to kill a magnificent beast of a Mugger crocodile, her rival in the lakeside hunting. The 13 feet creature was brutally slayed by this heroic tigress, earning her yet another name the Crocodile Killer.
Evidently, Machhli was a mighty predator, but that didn’t affect her maternal instincts, if not in a positive manner. She was quite a doting mother and was fiercely protective of her cubs and was affectionately called Queen mother of Tigers by the staff of the park.
During a record lifetime of 20 years, she gave birth to 5 litters, where the highest average of the same is 3. Her eleven cubs became the primary source of the spurt in the population of tigers in the reserve which had increased from 15 tigers in 2004 to 50 tigers in 2014. By the end of the year, it was estimated that almost half of the population of the tiger reserve belonged to the lineage of this matriarch.
All these facts, added with the calm yet assertive persona of the tigress had won respect not only of the human beings, but also of the animals. Most of the male tigers too were intimidated of her. Her valiance was demonstrated by many high featured documentaries including that by National Geographic, Animal Planet, and BBC.
It was estimated that Machhli alone attracted tourism worth of USD 10 million per year, during her youthful years. For this contribution, tigress was awarded the "Lifetime Achievement Award" of Travel Operators for Tigers. In 2013, the Indian government further commemorated the tigress by issuing a postal cover and stamps with her face on them.
Leading such a successful life, Machhli finally started experiencing deterioration in her health by the year 2015. She even went missing for several days, to the stress of the Park’s staff. She was found some time after in a very ill health. She deceased on 18 August, 2016, leaving a legacy behind that is hard to forget.