On the 24th of April 2009, Machali (Ranthambhore’s most famous tigress) and B2 (Bandhavgarh’s most famous tiger) were given a “life time achievement award” by TOFT in Delhi. TOFT or Travel Operators for Tigers is a pressure group of Travel Operators (http://www.toftindia.org/index.php), Destination management companies and Accommodation providers who aim to make wildlife tourism in India more responsible.
TOFT estimated that Machali contributed about US $ 10 million per annum for the last 10 years to the local economy in Ranthambhore, while B2 contributed over US $ 7.5 million per annum to Bandhavgarh’s economy. This is their contribution to the local economy and I for one believe that these are very conservative estimates. Their overall contribution to the Indian economy is far more than this maybe even three or four times more than this.
Are such awards just a gimmick or do they help? I got a lot of flank from “net activists” that this a pure gimmick and that I should not be involved in such activities. I am involved and totally support such awards. They tend to increase the profile of the individual tiger and their park, which straight away means more and better protection. Such awards also give a much-needed boost to the morale of the staff working in the park. Right now most of the officials working in Ranthambhore are on cloud nine and I sure the guards in Bandhavgarh are as thrilled. Generally speaking, unknown tigers usually die an unknown and premature death while the known ones tend to live out their natural life.
I do not know much about Bandhavgarh, so I will let someone else blog about B2 but I do know Machali. Machali and I came to Ranthambhore about the same time. What I mean is that when I moved permanently to Ranthambhore in 1998, Machali was a cub – the dominant one out of a litter of three females. In early 1999 she took over the area of the lakes in Ranthambhore and has stayed there since then. She sired four litters and two of the three tigers that were relocated to Sariska tiger reserve are her offspring’s (so much for mixing the gene pool in Sariska). About three years ago she lost most of her canines but that did not stop her from giving birth to and raising a litter of three females. She is now old and I am not too sure if she will live for much longer. She has only half a canine left, her territory has shrunk and she rarely goes near the lakes any more. The lakes are now part of the territory of her dominant cub from the last litter.
In the end of March she killed a large male Sambar deer in a narrow valley (Bhoot Khurra) in the heart of Ranthambhore national park. Two days later a male (that we call Star male or T 28) snatched her kill and a few hours after that the to of them had a fight. We were fortunate to be in the right place when the fight happened. The Star male is young and at his peak but Machali held her ground. Though just a year ago this male would not have had a chance against her. This was on the evening of 1st of April 2009 (April fool’s day) but I am not trying to pull a fast one on you. See the 6 pictures below.
Star male cautiously approaches Machali’s Sambar deer kill
Star male pushes Machali off her kill and starts eating
Machali returns to the kill after a few hours and the stage is all set for fireworks
Fireworks. The Star male has his back to the camera
After the fight Machali gets all submissive while the male walks off