A pall of gloom descended over the wildlife buffs as some sad news came in from the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. The beautiful striped cat which delighted the wildlife lovers and tourists for over a decade and a half passed away on January 15.
Bhopal T15, the legendary tigress popularly called Collarwali and Mataram, died due to old age. She was over 16 years old. Forest officials said that she breathed her last at 6:15 pm on Saturday. Her post mortem report revealed the cause of death as multiple organ failure due to intestine blockage resulting from old age.
Collarwali was sighted by tourists at the Sita Ghat area on Friday when she was under observation of veterinary doctors. The tigress was under surveillance for the last two days. She was lying on the ground and was unable to walk.
Also known as ‘Mother of Pench’, Collarwali was the most photographed tigress. She was cremated on Sunday at the hands of Shanta Bai, a local tribal leader who heads the Eco Vikas Samiti. Videos of the final rites have gone viral on social media leaving everyone teary-eyed.
The queen of Pench Tiger Reserve earned the title of ‘Supermom’. She gave birth to 29 cubs in eight litters during 11 years; between 2008 and 2018. Out of those 29, 25 survived. On May 25, 2008, it delivered her first litter of three cubs but all died. Her last and 8th litter of three cubs was in January 2019.
During her lifetime in Pench spanning over 17 years, she showed how important breeding tigresses are for the Indian forests. Collarwali’s cubs increased the tiger population in Pench and made it the number one tiger reserve in the country. Collarwali also held the distinguished record of giving birth to 5 cubs in one go in October 2010. Forest officials say it is rare for a tigress to give birth to five cubs in one litter.
The legendary tigress was born to T7, popularly known as Badi Mada and T1, known as Charger in 2005. Her female cub was shifted to Panna Tiger Reserve who gave birth to 5 cubs and made the relocation project of tigers in Panna Tiger Reserve a successful move. Therefore, Collarwali’s legacy is not only limited to Pench.
She was also the first-ever tigress to be collared at Pench. She was radio-collared in March 2008 by a team of experts from Dehradun. After 2 years, she was again radio-collared in January 2010 as the previous radio collar stopped functioning. This is how she got her name Collarwali.
The radio collar is a wide band of machine-belting fitted with a small radio transmitter and battery. The transmitter emits a signal at a specific frequency that can be tracked from up to 5 kms away.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan paid his tribute to the Collarwali and said, “The Super Tigress Mom Collarwali of Pench, the pride of Madhya Pradesh played an important role in achieving the Tiger State status for MP. The forests of Madhya Pradesh will always resonate with the roar of the cubs of the ‘Queen’ of Pench Tiger Reserve”.
According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, there has been a 48% spike in the number of tiger deaths in India in 2021 as compared to 2020. 111 tigers were reported dead in 2020 whereas, in 2021, 164 tigers lost their lives.