Known for her penchant to strike poses for the camera, the world’s oldest tigress Machli popularised the Ranthambore National Park and gave a boost to the local economy with her grandeur attracting visitors in large numbers from India and abroad.
The ‘Queen of Ranthambore’, as she was popularly called by wildlife lovers, significantly contributed to the tiger population, having produced nine cubs. Two from her bloodline were also sent to repopulate the Sariska Park in Alwar. The 19-year-old Machli died yesterday.
"She was the most sighted tigress-ever in the park and she gave birth to nine cubs. She featured in many documentaries canned in the past decade," Y K Sahu, Director of the Ranthambhore National Park, told PTI.
"Wildlife lovers called Machli the Queen of Ranthambore.
Earlier she was popular as the ‘Lady of the Lake’ as she lived in the prime territory of the park which is around the lake area," he said.
She survived for over 19 years against the average age of a tiger of 13-14 years and what is more interesting is that in this old age, she did not look dull, says wildlife lovers.
The big cat enjoyed a huge fan following all over the world with every wildlife enthusiast wanting to capture her in the frame.
She was well known for her penchant for giving poses to photographers.
"She was named Machhli because of the marks on her face that resembled a fish. She was a good swimmer and lived near the lake area in the park. Her fight with a crocodile, which was captured on camera, shot her to fame. She was the prime attraction of Ranthambhore," Sunayan Sharma, a former forest officer and a wildlife expert, said.
A nature guide working in Ranthambhore said the last decade was dedicated to her with almost every photographer wanting to capture her and she was too willing and cool to the idea of getting filmed.
"Her behaviour was very visitor-friendly and cool. She never showed aggressiveness. Machli was not only an attractive tigress, but also had a calm nature," Mohammad Rafique, the guide said.
"Her fame was on the peak from the year 2008 to 2010 when almost every tourist wanted to see Machli. Many documentaries have been filmed on Machli," he said.
Her contribution to the local economy has been prominent.
Rafique said that besides the guides, Machli was a boon for taxi drivers also.
As per an estimate, the local wildlife economy is of around Rs. 500 crore and the revenue generated from the entry fees is approximately Rs 17 crore annually.
"Machli’s role has been prominent in the local economy in the past decade," Rafique said.
Another expert Dinesh Durrani said that she was very popular among tourists.
"A tourist visiting the park always want to see a tiger and Machli was the only such tigress friendly with tourists and photography," Durrani said.
"I clicked some photographs three-four days back.Though she was ill, she was looking lively," he said.
Machli’s bloodline has produced many big cats in Ranthambhore included her own nine cubs. Two females from her bloodline were also sent to repopulate Sariska park in Alwar.
"Not only in Ranthambhore, but her contribution to the gene pool in Sariska is also important.She was a beautiful big cat and attracted tourists," another expert said.
The Ranthambhore National Park, spread over 392 sq km, has a population of around 60 big cats.