Ranthambore’s missing tigress Machli found after 28 days

The world’s oldest wild tigress has cheated death yet again. Twenty-six days after it went missing, prompting several searches in the forest, Ranthambore’s famed tigress Machli was spotted on Tuesday by forest officials.

According to the wildlife officials, she was spotted on trap cameras at Poli ka Nullah in the Kachida valley on Tuesday. Sources told TOI that after getting a message, Ranthambore’s assistant conservator of forest lead a team and found the 17-year-old tigress.

“Due to extreme cold, it had hibernated into a crevice which has sufficient water and prey base,” said an official. “The tigress is weaker than before, but very much alive,” he said. “It even came out and followed our jeep for some distance.” Photographer Sandip Singh, who has been following the tigress for years, too got a confirmation on Machli being found from officials on the spot.

It was feared that Ranthambore’s tiger queen had died of old age or had been poached after she went missing on January 9 from zone 5 of the park. Although her pugmarks had been found, the tigress could not be spotted despite major searches by forest official.

Machli, who is also perhaps the most photographed striped cat in the world, played a major role in the resurrection of Ranthambore national park after it was hit by falling tiger numbers as well as waning tourist interest in the early 2000s. Two of her cubs were relocated to Sariska, after the tigers population there was decimated due to poaching and other reasons.

“In 2004, there were just 15 tigers left in Ranthambore. Today, that figure is close to 50. Around 60% of the present tiger population is Machli’s progeny,” said Balendu Singh, honorary warden of Sawai Madhopur district.

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