MACHLI – A tribute to the Queen mother of Tigers

Machali (Hindi for “fish”; code name: T-16; c. 1996 – 18 August 2016), also known as Machli or Machhli, was a Bengal tigress who lived in Ranthambore National Park in India. She played a key role in the regeneration of the tiger population in the park in the early 2000s, and was celebrated with titles such as Queen Mother of Tigers, Tigress Queen of Ranthambore, Lady of the Lakes, and Crocodile Killer. She was considered India’s most famous tigress, and on her death was considered the world’s oldest tigress living in the wild.


Machli, born in 1996 or 1997, was the dominant cub in a litter of three females. She inherited her name from her mother, Machli I, who was also named fish due to a fish-shaped mark on her face. In her first two years, she started hunting on her own and took over a part of her mother’s territory.

Tigresses generally have two or three litters, however over a period of seven years, from 1999 to 2006, Machli had four litters and gave birth to eleven cubs – seven females and four males. Machli’s offspring increased the tiger population in the park significantly – from 15 tigers in 2004, to 50 tigers in 2014. Eventually more than half of the tigers in the park were of her lineage. In 2008, two of her female cubs were relocated to Sariska Tiger Reserve and successfully boosted the tiger population in that park as well.

In early 2014, Machli disappeared from her usual area, sparking a search by over 200 park staff. She was sighted after about a month, and appeared to be in good health. She had survived in dense forest by hunting her own prey, despite having been fed by park staff prior to her disappearance.

She was known for her hunting skill and strength, in particular in an incident in 2003 when she fought with and killed a 14-foot long mugger crocodile. As a result of the fight, she lost two canine teeth. She was also known for her ferocity in protecting her cubs from threats such as male tigers and other animals.


India reportedly earned about USD 10 million per year due to tourists attracted by the tigress. She won the “Lifetime Achievement Award” of Travel Operators For Tigers due to her contributionto conservation and as a tourist attraction that earned significant income for India.

In 2013, the Indian government issued a commemorative postal cover and stamp to honour the tigress for her ecological and economical contributions.

In the media

Machli is considered to have been the most photographed tigress in the world. She was featured in a number of wildlife documentaries, including a 50-minute documentary about her life, titled Tiger Queen, which was aired on the National Geographic and Animal Planet channels. In 2012, the story of Machli was aired on the BBC’s Natural World in an episode titled “Queen of Tigers: Natural World Special”.

Later years and death

Towards the end of her life, Machli lost almost all of her teeth, sight in one eye, and much of her strength due to aging. She also lost her territory, as her daughter Sundari from her last litter drove her out of her turf. As she was unable to hunt and kill for herself, park staff provided her with food. This intervention became somewhat controversial; tiger expert K Ullas Karanth commented that it resulted in Machli living longer than she should have, and that truly wild animals should be born, live and die naturally.

In August 2016 she became critically ill. Due to her great age, it was considered risky for Ranthambore’s rangers and staff to treat and aid her as the medications needed could be harmful or fatal.

Machli died on 18 August 2016. She was 20 years old, older than the average 10 to 15 year lifespan of tigers in the wild. She was cremated in observance with traditional Hindu rituals in a public ceremony.

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The queen of Ranthambhore says goodbye to the world. She took her last breath at the age of 19 and half. She was not eating since few days and wasn’t even moving due to which she got really weak. 

 She made Sariska a real tiger paradise again. The one behind Sariska’s new tiger population. Her daughter T 1 known as ST 2 who was relocated to sariska has given birth to 4 cubs. Her daughter T 18 was also shifted to sariska. She was also rewarded by lifetime achievement award and a postal stamp was also launched with her picture in Rajasthan. The legendary tigress was also known as the crocodile killer. She had killer a 14 foot long crocodile while she ruled the kingdom. Its being said that she was protecting her cubs then. The big the name the bigger her contribution. She gave birth to 9 cubs in 4 litters. 4 males and 5 females amongst the cubs. 1st litter was broken tail and slant ear. 2nd litter T1 female and T3 male bahadur. 3rd litter T 20 male Jhumroo and female Jhoomri. 4th litter with 3 females T 17 sundari, T 18 and T 19 Krishna. Here her cubs also took her legacy ahead. T 17 gave birth to 3 cubs and T 19 gave birth to 6 cubs. 

 She was known as Lady of the lakes also. She ruled the most prime location of the park of a decade known as the Rajbagh, Padam and Malik lakes. Machli was the most photographed Tigress in the world. She is the one one whom maximum movies and documentaries have been made and the photographers have also been awarded.

What they say…

“Once upon a time,there lived a tigress called Macchli” – Souvik

“RIP..From today there are 2 sets of wildlife lovers – some who are lucky to have seen her and others who are not” – Alone Sharma

“She was a magnificent beast…. Definitely responsible for putting tiger tourism on the world map. She will be remembered for eternity …. May her soul rest in peace”.- Akanksha Garg

“The lady who put tigers on the map has died. She was both an iconic ambassador for her species. And without doubt a entrepreneur of merit – ensuring a long term future for her kin!” – Julian Mathew

“Most photographed tigress, queen and star attraction. May her journey be peaceful.”- Alok Bhan Singh

“An icon of Ranthambore or, rather of India has given a great service to the Indian natural history tourism industry and then left! May her soul rest in peace.” – Sanjay Basu