Machali, the legendary cover girl for her species and the ever present symbol of Ranthambhore’s place amongst the firmament of India’s finest tiger reserves, is missing. The authorities are in a mild panic.
Too famous to let die of anything other than old age, for over two years she has continued to live in and around a small part of her old stamping ground, the Lakarda plateau,on the borders of her once large and very royal hunting ground. Here she remained, while her last litter of daughters, Satra (T17) and Unnis (T19) remained close. She was fed so called ‘meals on wheels’, goats and buffaloes brought by jeep and tethered on a rope to eat, a sop to her age, but in truth she was, at the ripe old age of 17 years, still capable of killing her own food. She also kept her sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandsons and granddaughters – for she was grandmother or mother to most of Ranthambhores tiger’s – from evicting her from her retirement home.
Free food is very tempting, and many tigers could not resist dining at the same ‘meals of wheels’ banquets, including Unnis (T19) her daughter, her two grandsons Suraj and Akash (T64 & T65), and also Semli, the dominant male of these parts (T6). Like Machali herself they knew the sound of the Forest vehicle and the bleeting or bellowing of the next victim, and came to join the feeding party. Anger and fighting ensued, and recently Machali finally gave way and left her Lakarda home for another area around Pili Ghati.
This part of the park was relatively unoccupied by tigers, disturbed too often by illegal woodcutters. Though she is used to the comings and goings of a million pilgrims in her old home, and the thousands of vehicle bound tourists, she would be unused to the more random actions of woodcutters, and the noise they made. Yesterday the Forest department took action to evict the woodcutters and restore protection to the area and peace to her rest home.
She has though not been seen now since the 9th January by our teams, but hopefully peace will be restored to her new home, and she will come out of hiding. The search continues.
Credits: Tiger Nation