Tonight send up a silent prayer for Machli, as she hangs onto life by a thin thread.

She has many firsts: she is the world’s most photographed, the oldest living wild specimen, mother and grandmother to many and of course, and 50 per cent of the bloodline of tigers in Ranthambore and Sariska are hers and she even has a postage stamp dedicated to her. T-16 or Machli  has been the undisputed queen of Ranthambore for almost two decades.

But there’s not very good news coming in: the world’s oldest living wild tigress is extremely unwell. Machli who turned 19 is few months ago, has been lying sick in the park. Although she is being tended too by the Forest Department officials, sources say they haven’t been able to do much more than give her oral antibiotics. And time is ticking away for her.

Machli, who has been living in the non-tourist zone for a few years now, was spotted lying in the tall grass near a luxury resort in the buffer zone of the forest.

Machli, T-16, lying in the grass in the buffer zone of Ranthambore- Pic Courtesy: Forest Department


And there does not seem to be too much hope for her. Every since she was spotted lying here, the Forest Department has been keeping a close watch on her. She hasn’t eaten for a few days now and looks weak and wasted.

Machli has lost four of her canines, and has not been hunting actively for some time now. The park has two trackers who exclusively  to keep sight of her. She lives off small prey and sometimes baited feed given by the forest officials. Machli has cataract in one eye and officials tending to her now fear that her other eye too may be affected. “One of the problems because of her age is that she cannot be sedated with a dart gun as she could collapse,” says Anurag Sharma, banker turned wildlife specialist. Oral antibiotics are the only recourse and she hasn’t been responding too well to this treatment.

Machli has been he star attraction of Ranthambore National Park for many years. She has given birth to 9 cubs from five litters over the years.

T-16’s  fish-tail like markings on her face giving her the sobriquet Machli– Pic courtesy Anurag Sharma/

Two years ago, when she was not spotted for a while, there was great furore in the park as many feared she maybe dead. Trackers finally traced her to a non-tourist zone in the park, where they felt she must have taken refuge as the younger, fitter tigers edged her out.


Machli’s legendary fights with crocodiles is folklore in Ranthambore. She has been photographed and even famously filmed fighting off a crocodile . The video is one of the most watched on YouTube of a tiger versus crocodile.  Sharma, who has tracked her for many years has recorded her historic reign on his website

“Born in monsoon of 1997, she was a dominant cub in litter of 3 females. By 1999 she had started hunting on her own & even took over part of her mother’s territory. Her first mating was with Bamboo Ram, a huge male around April 2000 & gave birth to first litter of two male cubs- named Broken Tale & Slant Ear. In April 2002 she again gave birth to a litter of three cubs but only two survived- named as Jhumru & Jhumri.

Her third litter was born around March 2005 named as Bunty & Babli. Despite losing two of her canines in summer of 2005, she not successfully reared this litter but to everyone’s surprise gave birth to another litter of three females (her fourth) in monsoon of 2006.

History repeated itself when her own daughter from last litter T17 drove her out & she is now resident of Bhutkhurra-ama ghati -baba ki gufa area on zone IV & V. Her daughter from last litter T19 rules most of her area including the lakes”

For now, the jungle is down on its knees praying for Machli. And tonight before you sleep, send up a silent prayer for her as this fearless queen of the jungle is hanging on to life by a thin thread.