Tag Archives: India

Elegy for Machli

Yesterday I learnt that the oldest, and most famous wild tiger in the world, has died. It was a sad day for tiger lovers everywhere.

Bengal tiger

Machli is said to be the most photographed tiger in the world, and several excellent documentaries have been made about her. She lived in Ranthambore National Park, in Rajasthan, India.

Ten years ago, I was lucky enough to see her, and her then almost adult cubs, in the flesh. Unperturbed by the tourist jeeps, she was the living embodiment of strength and grace. When she walked you could sense her power – power that helped her feed many cubs over the years, and even kill a 14ft long crocodile.

A few years after my visit to Ranthambore, there were a couple of tiger photos by different people in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Both were of Machli. And you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful subject.

I saw somewhere that half the tigers in Ranthambore, and another tiger reserve in Rajasthan, as descended from Machli. With the world’s tiger population still precarious, we should be celebrate her success at raising so many cubs, and for living for 19 years – the oldest recorded wild tiger (10-15 years being more usual).

Bengal tiger
One of Machli’s cubs, taken in 2006

Her public profile (she has a facebook page as well as a starring role in documentaries and photographs) has also helped raise awareness of tigers, and has brought in significant amounts of money (through tourism) to Rajasthan. Tiger tourism income is vital for making sure wild tigers are protected.

While lions are meant to be the king of beasts, having seen both in the wild, I think tigers edge it, and Machli was the queen of tigers. Let’s hope she’s endowed her offspring with the same qualities that allowed her to survive and breed so successfully.

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Grrrreat tiger news!

It’s January, so (if you live in the Northern hemisphere) I’m sure you could do with some good news to cheer you up. You’re in luck! Figures released this week show that the tiger population in India has gone up by 30% in the last 4 years.

Tigers are an endangered species, and their numbers have plummeted by 95% over the last century. They now live in just 7% of their original range. Habitat loss and poaching are the main reasons behind this decline. India is home to around 70% world’s remaining wild tigers, so an increase here is very encouraging.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to see tigers in the wild in India. It was an amazing experience. Tigers have to be my favourite animal – they’re so powerful. And stripy. Stripes just look great on any animal (that’s why zebra are cooler than other antelopes), but in burning amber and forest black on a tiger they’re hypnotic.

Bengal tiger

While in India we saw 5 individual tigers (two mothers, and 3 almost fully-grown cubs). That came to about 0.2% of the world’s population of tigers. 5 individuals should not make up that large a proportion of any animal species.

With numbers that low, it’s easy to assume the tiger’s time is up. But the latest news from India is not the only good tiger news there’s been recently. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of tigers in Nepal has increased by 60% since 2009. These two success stories show that, with enough political will, effort and funding, the decline can be reversed. They’re not a reason to be complacent – the population is still fragile, but all is not lost yet. It’s not inevitable that tigers will become extinct. We need to do more to protect these wonderful cats.

Bengal tiger

World Elephant Day

Today is World Elephant Day. Elephants are amazing creatures, but their survival is in the balance. I’ve been lucky enough to see both African and Asian elephants in the wild. Here are some of my favourite photos of them. If you enjoy looking at them, please check out how you can help elephants.

Elephant in Ghana
Elephant in Ghana
Retired working elephant in India
Retired working elephant in India
Elephants playing in a lake in Ghana
Elephants playing in a lake in Ghana
An elephant against the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda
An elephant against the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda
Elephant in Ghana
Elephant in Ghana
Close up of elephant eating
A close encounter
Elephant reaching for a high branch
And stretch…
Elephant flapping its ears
Because I’m worth it…
Elephant having a shower
Time to cool down
Elephant mother with calf (and another one trying its luck)
Elephant mother with calf (and another one trying its luck)
Ugandan elephant
Ugandan elephant
Elephants on the move in Uganda
Elephants on the move in Uganda
Elephants on the move in Uganda
Elephants on the move in Uganda
Asian elephants
Asian elephants