Valmik Thapar, one of the world’s greatest authorities on wild tigers once wrote that Macchli, Ranthambhore’s legendary tigress, “stirred the soul of those who saw her.”
No other living creature of the wild has perhaps moved those who had the privilege of observing her; free, fierce and powerful in her own natural element, as much as the matriarch of Ranthambhore’s forests who passed away, two years ago today. Few wildernesses in the world have become synonymous with the denizens who inhabit them in the way that Ranthambhore resonates with her memory, even with her passing and the dominance of an entirely new generation of our big cats in these forests.
As one turns a corner and comes across a tiger, one of the most charismatic animals on our planet, often, the experience of the sighting – no matter how good it may turn out to be – is judged through comparison with some memory of Macchli, by regular visitors to Ranthambhore. The lineages of Ranthambhore’s tigers go back nearly fifty year and their stories are legends which never turn bland with repetition. But of all the tigers who dominated Ranthambhore over the years, it is the legend of Macchli, witnessed by so many, that has turned her story into a living memory, retold by every guide and guard in the National Park she ruled for so many years. Each of us who knew her has their own favourite or most memorable encounter with her. Together, these stories embody a living reference of the life of an individual of her species but of tiger behaviour as a study.
As tigers take their leave for the “Happy Playgrounds”, new tigers slip in, take over, rule and ultimately give way. In the case of Macchli, Ranthambhore’s matriarch her memory is unlikely to fade because she touched so many and so often.
Valmik, who knew her intimately spoke for many when he wrote,
“…Some of the best years of my life were entangled with her life. We had shared some very special moments together and I felt her loss just like I feel the loss of anyone I am close to…”
We still miss her and will continue to miss her. But in tribute to the first anniversary of her passing, we leave you with just some of our favourite images of an extraordinary tigress, who defined – despite all odds – what it means to be a tiger of the wild.