Iconic Tigers Of India You Should Know About

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Tigers, the largest of the big cats and apex predators, have long captured the human imagination with their majestic presence and distinctive striped coats. Apart from their speckless skin and stunning acrobatics, it appears that a sense of danger has long fascinated humans. On tiger safaris, people wait for hours to get a look at the majestic beast; they wait patiently for there lingers a threat that something might happen. Thinking this, I believe Donna Tartt rightly put in her book “The Secret History” that beauty is terror, and what we find beautiful, we quiver before it. From their roles in conservation efforts to their appearances in literature and film, certain tigers have achieved iconic status. Let’s delve into the lives and legacies of six of the most renowned tigers in the real world, their contributions, terror and beauty.

Machli, The Queen of Ranthambore

Machli, also known as the “Lady of the Lake” and identified as T-16, once ruled over Ranthambore‘s palaces, lakes, and forts. She was a legendary Bengal tigress, the dominant ruler of her habitat. She was nicknamed the “Queen of Ranthambore” and became famous for her exceptional hunting skills. In her lifetime, Machli gave four litters, as opposed to the average 2-3 for a tigress, and played a pivotal role in raising awareness about tiger conservation and ecotourism in India. Her impressive life was documented extensively through photographs and documentaries, making her one of the most photographed tigers in the world. What set Machli apart was her comfortable relationship with humans and her strategic hunting tactics, sometimes involving tourist vehicles to aid her pursuits. She passed away on August 18, 2016, at 19, but her legacy lives on through conservation efforts and documentaries that celebrate her ferocity and impact on wildlife tourism. Despite her age-related decline, Machli’s story remains a testament to the enduring spirit of Ranthambore’s majestic tigers.

Ustad, The Ranthambore Giant

T-24, also known as Ustad, was born in 2005 to T20 (Jhumroo) and T22 (Gayatri). He ruled the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve with his partner T-39 (Noor) for nine years. Ustad was mostly unchallenged during his reign, except for minor conflicts with his sibling T25 (Zaalim). He was unique in his behaviour, which included dragging prey to highways and remaining unfazed by human presence. Ustad became a major attraction at Ranthambore, and wildlife enthusiasts and photographers loved him.

However, Ustad gained notoriety after several human attacks, including the fatal mauling of a forest guard in 2015. This led to his controversial relocation to Sajjangarh Biological Park, sparking international outcry and legal battles questioning the decision. Supporters of Ustad argue against labelling him a man-eater, highlighting the impact of human interference on his behaviour. Conservationists stress the need for ecosystem balance and stricter wildlife policies to safeguard tigers and humans from escalating conflicts in shared habitats. Today, Ustad is remembered as a massive male tiger in Ranthambore National Park, known for his imposing size and dominant behaviour. His life and legacy continue to spark important debates about managing tiger reserves and wildlife conservation in India.

Avni, The Controversial Tigress

Avni, also known as T1, was a tigress who lived in Maharashtra, India, and generated a lot of controversy. Her life sparked debates about conservation practices and human-wildlife conflict. Avni was accused of being a man-eater, and her fate ignited passionate discussions about managing tigers in close proximity to human settlements in both ethical and practical ways. At the time of her killing, Avni was an adult tigress with two cubs who were ten months old. Between June 2016 and her death, the tigress was suspected of killing 13 people. A team of Forest Department officials and a civilian hunter shot her near Borati village in Yavatmal on November 2, 2018, three months after the Supreme Court ordered that the animal be tranquilised and transported elsewhere. In case that failed, authorities were given permission to kill her.

Champawat Tiger, The Man Eater

The Champawat Tiger was a female Bengal tiger that terrorised Nepal and India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After killing around 200 people in Nepal, the tigress was driven out and moved to the Champawat district in Uttarakhand, where she continued her killing spree. Initially, her attacks were infrequent, but they soon became more frequent and violent. The tigress would enter villages during daylight, causing panic among the people who would flee to their huts. The tigress was injured by a gunshot wound, which affected her hunting abilities and led her to target humans as prey. The British colonial administration sent skilled hunters, including Jim Corbett, a renowned hunter, conservationist, and author, to end the tigress’s rampage. In 1907, Corbett tracked down and killed the tigress after following the trail of blood she left behind from her last victim, a 16-year-old girl.

Paro, The Queen of Ramganga

Paro, also known as Paarwali, is a famous tigress residing in the Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve. She is often referred to as the Queen of Ramganga due to her majestic presence. When Paro was first sighted in Corbett in 2013-14, nobody knew much about her parents, but some believed that she was the daughter of a tigress known as Thandi Maa from Dhikala Chaur. Despite her petite size, Paro chased away two tiger matriarchs to establish her rule over both sides of the Ramganga river. This has resulted in some of the most breathtaking photographs of Paro, with the Ramganga River serving as a stunning backdrop.

Munna, The King of Kanha

Munna, known as the “King of Kanha” or the “Apex Predator”, was a majestic tiger in India’s Kanha National Park. Munna had distinctive “CAT” and “PM” markings on his forehead and spent most of his life in the Kisli zone, where he was comfortable around humans. Unfortunately, he killed a human in 2021, likely due to age-related physical declines. Munna was moved to the Bhopal Zoo, marking the end of his reign in the wild. Despite this, he remains a symbol of the wild’s unpredictable and awe-inspiring nature.

(With inputs from agencies)

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