India's most famous tiger, fondly known as 'Machli', photographed by hundreds and loved by thousands, breathed her last on Thursday afternoon at The Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan
Aged 19, Machli, often touted as 'The queen of Ranthambore', had been sick for the past few weeks and had stopped eating, as reported by Economic Times. The longest surviving tiger of Ranthambore, the ageing Machli, had been slowing down and had lost her teeth.
As per the reports, she was found starving and laying down on her side in a bamboo patch near the boundary of the park. Even as wildlife specialists and veterinary doctors monitored her situation, there was not much they could do to help.
"We were trying to provide her treatment but she died. It was a natural death linked to her age," Ranthambore tiger project director Yogesh Kumar Sahu.
The cremation for Machli would be carried out in a proper way because, as she was known not just for being a legend, but also the godmother of the entire forest.
“All guides and forest staff want a proper cremation for her just like we would do for any other family member,” Hemraj Meena, guide and naturalist at Ranthambore was quoted saying to DNA.
Machali had crossed the average life span of Endangered Royal Bengal tigers who live on average for 10 to 15 years. Her death made national headlines in India, while saddened fans took to social media to pay their respects to the "lady of the lake" and the "queen of Ranthambore".
— Vidya Deshpande (@vidyadee) August 18, 2016
— sid (@sidsbose) August 18, 2016
— Kamalika Basu (@KamalikaBasu) August 18, 2016
India's grand old and much loved tigress Machli dies at age 20. She was the Queen of hearts. https://t.co/SmNAcDmKVM
— viva kermani (@vivakermani) August 18, 2016
Featured in wildlife documentaries, she was once filmed successfully battling a four-metre (14-foot) long crocodile, according to the park's website.
Machli, the Hindi word for fish because of shaped markings on her face, also had 11 cubs over the years whose offspring make up almost half the park's tiger population. She had added $10 million a year to Ranthambore’s income for the past 10 years, as reported by The Deccan Chronicle.
Her death comes as a massive search continues for another much-loved tiger in the western state of Maharashtra who disappeared from a wildlife sanctuary in April.
India is home to more than half of the world's tiger population with some 2,226 of the animals roaming its reserves, according to the last count in 2014.
With inputs from agencies.