AFP/ New Delhi
Indian animal lovers are in mourning over the sudden passing of a nationally famous tigress credited with repopulating a forest redoubt for her endangered kin. Collarwali, dubbed “supermum” by local press for giving birth to nearly 30 cubs, died peacefully at the weekend after an intestinal problem.
Sombre conservation officers gently carried Collarwali’s body onto a funeral pyre garlanded with flowers for her ritual cremation. “The tigress was very popular at the reserve and with the local community,” Alok Mishra, field director of the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh state, told AFP. “Everyone knew about her.”
Collarwali earned her celebrity following for rejuvenating the local tiger population, and drew visitors from across India to the reserve, in an area purported to be the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s famed “Jungle Book” anthology. Of the 29 cubs she gave birth to over her lifetime, 25 survived to adulthood. Her peculiar name – ‘With Collar’ in English – came from a research project conducted in the nature park in her infancy.
“She was the first tiger to get a collar at the reserve,” Mishra said. “That was the reason she became very famous... the collar ensured that she was very well documented and well known.”
India is home to around 75% of the world’s remaining tigers, but hunting and habitat loss have slashed the population to dangerously low levels.
Footage of Collarwali prowling her habitat was shared on social media after news of her death, along with an outpouring of heartfelt tributes.
“Wildlife lovers and enthusiasts will understand how heartbreaking it is, when a majestic tigress goes into silence forever,” one user wrote on Twitter.
“RIP, Queen of Pench. You lived long and majestically,” said another. “You ruled the food chain and because of you an entire forest was alive.”
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