THE LEGENDARY lioness, which gave birth to a cub at an old age of 17, has died, leaving behind a legacy of her progeny who account for a sizeable part of Asiatic lion population in Liliya of Amreli today. The lioness, popularly known as Collarwali due to a radio-collar she was wearing for better part of her life, was rescued from the wild early this month and shifted to Vadal rescue centre.
“She was not well and we shifted her to Vadal for treatment. However, due to her old age, she didn’t respond to treatment and died on August 15,” said Nisha Raj, deputy conservator of forests (DCF) of Shetrunji wildlife division. “She was the oldest one we had. She was 18 to 18.5 years old,” the DCF added.
Jalpan Rupapara, a Junagadh-based radiologist who has been researching on Asiatic lions for more than a decade and who was closely following this particular lioness, said that Collarwali was unique in two respects.
“She had total seven litters, the highest on record for any big cat in wild. We spotted her with a cub last monsoon, her last litter when she was already 17 years old. This is also the oldest age at which a lioness has had a litter,” Rupapara told The Indian Express.
He added that Collarwali had given birth to three cubs each in her first three litters, two each in the subsequent two litters and one each in her sixth and seventh litters.
According to Rajkot-based wildlife conservationist Bhushan Pandya, Collarwali was a legend. “Generally, Asiatic lions live for 12 to 15 years in wild as once they grow old, they can’t hunt and also find it difficult to recover from injuries. This lioness living for so long and giving birth at 17 is something unique,” he said.
Rupapara said that the lioness was radio-collared by scientists of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in 2008 as part of their research project. “Though the collar became inactive after around 1.5 years after its battery exhausted, it become the identity of the lioness and people started calling her Collarwali. She had the collar till around two years ago,” he said.
Research said that six of her seven litters, spread over around 12 years of her productive life, were well recorded and that a sizeable portion of today’s lion population in Liliya-Krakach area of Shetrunji wildlife division in Amreli district were her progeny and therefore some locals and forest staff members used to refer to her as “Rajmata” or the queen mother.
“Her fertility and cub-rearing capacity were quite high. I have seen her feeding one generation of her young cubs while three other sub-adults of the previous generation looked on. She successfully raised all her cubs, save the two cubs born in her last two litters,” said Rupapara, who, along with another researcher Purvesh Kacha, has studied the ecology of lions of Liliya-Krakach area and satellite populations of Asiatic lions in greater Gir landscape.
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