Empress of Ranthambore
Being the reigning tigress of one of India’s finest big cat habitats is no easy feat. But T19, daughter of the legendary tigress Machli, seems to have lived up to her destiny.
I have been around the lakes of Ranthambhore numerous times; they are easily the most favoured locations for its famous big cats. Padam Talao, Rajbagh and Malik Talao, the three manmade lakes boast of an unlimited supply of prey and plenty of water even through the summers. This territory was once controlled by the legendary Machli (later numbered T16) of Ranthambhore. In her last litter, Machli gave birth to three daughters, T17, T18 and T19. Of the three, T19 (who later came to be known as Krishna) was the shyest and hence was scared away by T17 during her attempt to take over the lakeside territory. T19 took refuge in the nearby Mandook Hills and later established her territory there. Meanwhile, T18 was shifted to Sariska, and Machli was also eventually scared away by T17.
Whilst in exile of sorts in 2011, Krishna mated with the dominant male in that area, T28 (or better known as Star Male), giving birth to three cubs. These cubs were later numbered T63 (female), T64 and T65 (two males). In 2012, shortly after giving birth to her first litter, T17 disappeared and was later confirmed to be dead. This left the lakeside territory wide open once again, and Krishna was quick to take up this opportunity and establish herself as the new ‘Lady of the Lakes’.
In the summers of 2014, Krishna was seen strutting around with four tiny cubs around one of the lakes. Unfortunately, one of them did not survive. But this time around, the father of the cubs is a mystery. In June 2013, during the peak of the Rajasthan summer, I saw Krishna mating with T25 (mischievously named Zalim). But two days later, I found her mating with Star at the very same spot. I can only assume that is the more dominant male, Star would have scared off Zalim to claim his ‘prize’. One can simply guess at the paternity of the three new cubs, but with Krishna to guide them through and the lakes to provide them with sustenance, it seems certain that they are looking at a bright future ahead.
Footnote: T19 gave birth to her third litter mid-2017. She was initially sighted with four cubs in June 2017 but was later sighted with just three cubs, causing us to conclude that one cub from her current litter did not survive. Her cubs from previous litters, T63 and T84, are now themselves mothers of cubs. (Courtesy: Google & https://www.ranthamborenationalpark.com/ )
Cover: Star (T28) was seen mating with Krishna (T19) in June 2013 at the very same spot where Zalim (T25) was mating with her till the previous day. | Photo: Mona Patel
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