One of the world’s oldest and most photographed tigresses has died in a wildlife park in India, grabbing headlines and an outpouring of commentary on social media from wildlife enthusiasts and animal lovers.
India is home to half the world’s tiger population.
For many years, 19-year-old Machli had been the star attraction at Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, one of India’s most prominent wildlife parks.
Known as the “Queen of Ranthambore,” she became famous after battling a four-meter long crocodile and was featured in several wildlife documentaries.
The Ranthambore National Park’s website says “her muscular and majestic look and her dominance at the whole Ranthambore jungle” had captivated attention.
She was named Machli, the Hindi word for fish, because of markings resembling a fish on the left side of her face.
Wildlife officials found her about a week ago on the edge of the park and say that during the last few days she hardly moved or eaten. A team of veterinary doctors who monitored her condition said she died Thursday of natural causes linked to her age. They said she had surpassed the average life expectancy of 12 to 15 years for tigers.
According to an estimate quoted by the Times of India, during the past decade she helped the Ranthmbore park earn more than $10 million in revenue per year as thousands of tourists, both Indian and foreign, visited the park, hoping to catch a glimpse of Machli.
Indian authorities also brought out a postage stamp featuring the legendary tigress.
Machli helped stabilize the tiger population in the park, giving birth to 11 cubs whose offspring in turn now make up almost half the tiger population in the park. Wildlife officials said she fought ferociously to protect her cubs.
India launched a project in 1972 to protect the tiger from extinction and at last count was home to 2,226 tigers.