By Dr H S Prayag
The death of Collarwali – one of the oldest tigers to have survived this century will be remembered with awe and affection by people of Pench, tiger lovers, conservationists and forest officials. She was the mother of 29 cubs and had entered her 17th year when she breathed her last recently (15th) at the Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India.
She was born in 2005 as T-15 – her mother, known as “badi mata” or “big mother” was also a famous tigress. Her father’s name was T-1.
In her later years, she came to be identified as Collarwali – the one with a collar – when she became the first tigress in the national park to be fitted with a radio collar. This allowed researchers to study her for some years.
Collarwali was also affectionately called “mataram” or “respected mother” by wildlife lovers – a name she earned during her lifetime. Then there were her 29 cubs, of which 25 have survived and ruling the roost – this is a record not only in India but also across the world.
Her first three cubs died of pneumonia in 2008 but she soon started producing litter after litter at relatively short intervals – including a “bumper” one of five cubs in 2010, a rare feat to the best of my knowledge.
Now what is that she possessed survived for so many years in the wild? And further, produced 29 cubs and came to be known as ‘Super Mom’ in the world of tigers and tiger breeding.
Many factors have played an important role in the life of Collarwali which includes:
- Veterinary Care and
- Park Management
She was a ‘Prolific Breeder” and that was all due to genetics and nutrition. Further, Pench Tiger reserve has a very good Prey base and good nutrition was available for this legendary tigress. And she made perfect use of this as she was fearless, bold and a go-getter.
If a tigress hunts once a week, Collarwali used to hunt twice to feed her big litter of cubs, according to Dr Akhilesh Mishra, the Park Veterinarian. Any injuries to her body, she would lie in the open to garner attention.
It was not just these factors but she received good veterinary care now and then while park management too contributed to her successful life as a super mom.
Usually, tigers breed from a minimum of one cub to five cubs per litter but this striped lady had a record of breeding 3-5 per litter.
Today, 25 of her cubs have survived and have immensely contributed to the ecological balance, biodiversity and tiger conservation and also to the rise in tiger population in both Madhya Pradesh and Maharashra.
On Sunday, she was bid a fond farewell with flower offerings and prayers by officials, her admirers and the local tribal community.
(PHOTO CREDIT: FOR IMAGE-1 of TIGRESS COLLARWALI IS Nconnet published under Commons: Wikimedia and REST OF THE PHOTOS: COURTESY, PENCH NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITIES)
The author Dr H S Prayag is Chief Veterinary Officer and Assistant Professor, Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fishery Sciences University (KVAFSU), Bengaluru