Updated: January 17, 2022 2:20:24 am
“SHE CAME to the stream and was so weak that she could barely walk. She lay down near the water and did not move for two hours, with only her ears twitching. At that point, there were 42 vehicles inside Pench, and all of them spotted her.”
This moving sequence on Friday, according to an eyewitness, was the last public appearance of T-15. Or simply “Collarwali”, as she was known in Madhya Pradesh’s Pench Tiger Reserve.
Within hours of that sighting at “her usual spot” near the Bhura Dev “nallah” by Om Veer, a naturalist and wildlife photographer, Forest officials reached the site, closed the roads and took her in for treatment. The next evening, around 6.15 pm, the first ever tigress to be collared at Pench — hence the name — and one of the stars of the BBC documentary ‘Spy in the Jungle’, breathed her last.
In one of her last spotting, T-15 had come out to drink water from an open stream on Jan 14 & had grown so weak that she walked with difficulty, lay there without moving for an hour before she was taken in by forest officials for treatment & monitoring.
Video credit: Om Veer. pic.twitter.com/a2DNObwFGb
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Speaking to The Indian Express, Ashok Kumar Mishra, Field Director, Pench Tiger Reserve, said the post mortem revealed the cause of death as multiple organ failure due to intestine blockage resulting from old age. “Her intestine was blocked with mud and hair,” he said.
According to officials, T-15 was born on September 22, 2005, to T-1, also known as “Charger”, and T-7 or “Badi mata”, another famous tigress of Pench. She was the first-born of four cubs, and all of them were featured, along with the mother, in the documentary.
Dr Aniruddha Majumdar, a scientist with the State Forest Research Institute who had Collarwali breathes her last, MP’s Pench tiger reserve loses its ‘Supermom’ tracked Collarwali for seven years to study breeding and cub-raising among tigers, described her as “the pride of entire Madhya Pradesh”.
“She was the first one to move out, and lived with her father T-1 who was one of the most dominating tigers of Pench. Much like him, Collarwali dominated the prey-rich area of the reserve and held the distinguished record of giving birth to five cubs in a litter in October 2010. It is rare for a tigress to give birth to five cubs in one go,” he said.
Majumdar says he was part of the team that collared T-15 inside Pench on March 11, 2008, when he was a researcher with Wildlife Institute of India (WII). “On May 20, 2008, we spotted her with three cubs, her first litter, but none survived. The autopsy found her cubs had died of pneumonia. But then, on October 25 the same year, she gave birth to four cubs and raised all of them successfully,” he said.
Two years later, Collarwali surprised everyone by delivering five cubs in a litter. “There is hardly any record of a tigress giving birth to five cubs at one go. She raised all of them. Over the years, she gave birth to 29 cubs…25 survived,” Majumdar said.
According to officials, it is also rare for a tigress to give birth to 29 cubs — in eight litters — and successfully raise 25. This, they said, earned her the title of “Supermom” among wildlife lovers.
It’s a tag that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan underlined in his tribute on Twitter. “Collarwali tigress, also known as the queen of Pench and a Super Mom who birthed 29 cubs, played an important role in getting MP the tag of a tiger state. Pench Tiger Reserve will keep echoing with the roars of the queen’s cubs,” he wrote.
But that’s not the only reason why Collarwali was popular. “She would walk out on the kaccha road when she heard jeeps coming, as if she wanted to be seen. We called her a tourist lover,” said Sanjay Tiwari, a local social activist.
On Sunday, Collarwali was cremated. But according to Majumdar, her “glory still lives on”. “One of her cubs, a tigress who was relocated to Panna, has also given birth to five cubs in one litter. The male cubs of Collarwali now dominate Pench and its adjoining territory in Maharashtra as well,” he said.
Forest officials say another cub, T-4 or “Pat Dev”, has five more cubs of its own and lives in Pench. “We are hoping that Pat Dev will take after the mother,” said an official.
Collarwali’s end, says Field Director Mishra, “was a befitting tribute to her indomitable spirit”.
“She was a legendary mother and she was cremated (on Sunday) at the hands of Shanta Bai, a local tribal leader who heads the Ecovikas Samiti and has played an important role in improving living conditions among tribals.”
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