Ranthambore Tiger Reserve's pride, 19-year-old tigress Machli, the oldest big cat ever known to have walked the wilderness, died on Wednesday morning after ailing for some time, officials said.
Machli, the most photographed big cat at the reserve, died at 9.40 a.m.
She had been refusing food and water for some time. She was under observation at Ama Ghati, in the fringe area of the reserve, and surrounded by a bevy of her admirers and forest officials when she died.
Her body has been taken to the Ama Ghati check post for the post mortem, after which it will be cremated. The cremation is to avoid the body parts from being harvested, Field Director of Ranthambore, Y.K Sahu told IANS.
Also known as "Queen", Machli's "most famous and remembered wildlife encounter is the one where she fought and killed a 14-foot long crocodile," the Ranthambore National Park said on its website.
"In this legendary incident, the brave tigress lost all her canine teeth making it difficult for her to hunt. She even had a dedicated team that used to keep a track of her movements and from time to time offered baits so that she wouldnâ€™t go hungry. Many documentaries have been made on the life of this camera-friendly tigress, who is name Machhli (fish) due to a fish sign on her face found by Colin Patrick Stafford-Johnson, a cinematographer who made five documentaries on her. Her fame is such that she has a postage stamp as well as several Facebook pages dedicated to her. We feel deeply sad at the loss of this Legend from Ranthambore and with tears in our eyes remember each time a sight of this brave one made us smile," the article on the website added.
Watch this documentary on Machli by NatGeo