Nearly fifteen years ago, Macchli; Ranthambhore’s most famous living tigress drove her mother away to acquire control of the Lake Territories, below the ramparts of the fort of Ranthambhore, an area she held until 2009. Macchli herself was deposed after a battle of attrition with her own daughter Split (T17) who took over the Lakes as part of her range, four years ago. Macchli retreated to a section of her previously vast range where she remained, in the shadows. That was until now.
The Lake Territory principally comprises the three lakes of Padam Talab, Rajbagh and Malik Talab and the areas which overlook them. The area has often been described as ‘prime tiger real estate’ for the profusion of game which abounds there, the availability of fresh water and the magnificent spots which provide cover for predators. It comes as no small surprise then that this area is now a veritable ‘red-zone’ where big-cat tensions lurk around every turn. The calm, serene looking waters of the lake shores conceal a more potent menace than the jagged rows of crocodile teeth the reptilian inhabitants of the area display. For many, Split has now been replaced as the reigning ‘Lady of the Lakes’ by her sister, the shy but formidable mother of three, Brat (T19). However, the conquest is not yet complete. Pugmarks of two female tigers are still being seen sporadically in some corners of the territory, which ensures that the area is still under contest. The arterial track of Tamba Khan, which connects Malik Talab to the lower valleys of the Kachida Road holds the records of Split’s occasional movements in the area and a more interesting development is as yet, still unravelling.
After a nearly four year hiatus, Macchli, to many the Matriarch of Ranthambhore has been ranging wider than her Lakarda retreat and on one occasion recently was seen traversing the furthest extremes of her old territory, to as far down as Khemsa Kund, behind the fort.
Brat’s three cubs made their first foray into the area only two weeks ago, a ‘flag-march’ of prodigious proportions where the otherwise shy tigress was flanked by three nearly full grown offspring around Padam Talab and Rajbagh, an extraordinary sight witnessed by several Sher Bagh guests and others. This makes the absence of Split in the area less confounding, given that she is outnumbered four to one, her own cubs being a third the size of Brat’s brood. In all this the local male, The Star Male (T28) has managed to hold his own ground despite pressure from Zalim (T25) in sections of the area and appears to be reclaiming lost territory, gradually.
It may be premature to declare a winner yet but what a showdown is certain is that will not take long in coming. Whoever the ultimate winner may be, the appearance of a new ‘Lady of the Lakes’ will signal a territorial shift in Ranthambhore that we are all eagerly waiting to witness.
Written by Yusuf Ansari
Photography by Yusuf Ansari