Rajasthan is a land of royals and they are not confined to the age old stories of kings and queens. During our stay, we heard numerous stories of those who ruled the national park. I have outlined a few who dominated the narration.
Macchli (T16) – No less than a queen to the people of Ranthambore, Macchli holds the coveted title of “World’s most photographed tigress”. Her mother’s namesake, the name was derived from a fish-shaped mark on her left ear. She is said to have been extremely cordial with human beings and was an absolute favorite with the lensmen. Our hosts referred to her as their “Anndata” as she has given a boost to the national park’s tourism. Most of the tiger population in the park are from her lineage (considered to be a gene pool of 50 tigers).
A fierce Royal Bengal tigress; she hunted, dominated and boldly protected her cubs. In 2003, she ferociously fought a 14-foot long crocodile which was the greatest example of her strength and hunting skills. Sadly, it was also the beginning of an end to her reign. As an aftermath of the fight, she lost her two canine teeth which made her unable to hunt and kill for herself. The park officials had no choice but to intervene. Her natural instincts giving away, age started taking a toll with loss of all teeth, eyesight and eventually losing territory to her daughter Sundari (T17).
The later years of her life was captured by wildlife filmmaker, S. Nallamuthu in the documentary “The World’s Most Famous Tiger”. It is a sincere effort for tiger conservation and definitely strikes an emotional connection with the viewers; a message to “Save Tigers” and wildlife. Macchli died on August 18, 2016 and her last rituals were performed per Hindu tradition. She has left behind a legacy which none has matched till date worldwide.
Krishna (T19) – Daughter of Macchli, Krishna is a common sighting in Zone 3. Unlike her stronger sister, Sundari, she remained comparatively naive. After being defeated by her sister, she moved away from the predominant lake area. However, years after, claimed it back when Sundari vacated the area to protect her cubs. Slowly but steadily, Krishna is said to have occupied the biggest territory throughout with the best tiger habitat in the world.
Arrowhead (T84) – If you have opted for either of Zone 3, 4 or 5; there are fair chances to see the mighty Arrowhead. Young and strong, she has taken over these areas from her mother, Krishna. The territory was inherited after a fair share of struggle with her siblings – Lightning and Packman. Her debut appearance was said to be in March 2014 when her mother was shifting them one by one. In January 2019, she was spotted in Zone 2 with her 2-3 month old cubs.
Ustad (T24) – Anyone can lose over a misfortune, even a tiger who once ruled as a master “Ustad”. Dominant, fearless and free spirited; he was a nightmare for the poachers and forest guards equally as he relentlessly patrolled his territory in the night. Dominating zones 1, 2 and 6; this was not a regular of all. Grandson to Macchli, he was one of the largest tigers in the park weighing 258 kg in 2015 per official documents.
On May 08, 2015; Ustad was charged with killing a brave forest guard, Rampal Saini. Owing to more human killings (reportedly another forest guard and two villagers), he was allegedly held responsible for four of them and labelled as a “Man eater”. The forest department moved him from Ranthambore to Sajjangarh Biological Park in Udaipur. However, this led to a massive outcry from activists and wild life enthusiasts claiming absence of absolute evidence against Ustad. The case is still being pursued with experts from National Tiger Conservation Authority concluding his attacks as unfortunate human encounters. His sightings were reported earlier too by villagers, tourists and he never attacked anyone. Many of the experts suggest this change in his natural behaviour could be the result of frequent tranquilization, confinement to cage, use of radio collar and unwanted human invasion. He received massive support from media and people, in general to be returned to his home ground. His movement also disturbed his family with Noor (T39) and their cubs.
While the case is still pending in the court, Ustad no longer roams around freely in his 9-year old home and still adjusting in the relocated one. This poses a serious question – Aren’t human beings to be blamed with their never ending quest to disturb another’s territory in pursuit of their development?
Fateh (T42) –Fateh remains the undisputed proprietor of Zone 10. His roars can give cold shivers even to the bravest of all. Not recommended for the faint-hearted.
If only there was a way I could tell who’s who 😦
Daulat Singh Shekhawat – The Braveheart “Man of Wild”
No, he is not a tiger. But when it comes to courage, he is no less than one and so has been named “Man of Wild”. His story gave us goose bumps. A passionate and wildlife enthusiast, Mr. Shekhawat was an officer in Forest Department of Rajasthan. His contribution towards conservation of wildlife, tigers and other species is noteworthy. His book “My Encounter with the BIG CAT and Other Adventures in Ranthambore” is a compilation of his life in the wilderness.
The most famous being his near death experience in 2010 when he was brutally attacked by a male tiger (T7). It is said that on sighting of T7 outside the park boundary, the clueless villagers provoked the wild animal to go back into the park before the forest officials could reach the spot. While trying to get T7 tranquilized, the confused tiger attacked Daulat Singh in self-defence leaving him severely injured. He was hospitalized for several days with almost losing his life. He returned stronger with the loss of an eye and irreplaceable damage to his face, though still not an ounce deterred from his love for the wild cat. In his own words “It was not ‘T-Seven’s fault. If the villagers had not forced him back, the tiger would have quietly returned to the forest.”
These stories increased our curiosity many folds. Follow our experience of tiger sighting on Ranthambore – Mission 3 Tigers.
The information provided is based on stories from locals and subsequent research online. For any further queries, feel free to leave a comment below or email. I will revert at the earliest.
**All images used in the article are courtesy Mr. Devendra Sharma, Manager, Ranthambore Vatika Resort and some from online sources.