Whats in a (Tiger's) Name! Well, everything, in Ranthambhore

Alankar Chandra, CEO, Wild VoyagerAlankar, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and Delhi College of Engineering has held senior to top leadership positions in leading MNCs prior to chasing his passion of Exploration and Wildlife & Nature photography

What do you think of names like Krishna, Noor and Ladli? Some girls in your neighborhood? Well no, if you are in Ranthambhore. These are some famous Tigresses in the tourism zones of Ranthambhore, and more familiar names to me than possibly some of my friends. There is an interesting history on how these Tigers get their names. The local forest department identifies Tigers by numbers, which starts with T, for example. In these names Krishna is T19, Noor is T39 and Ladli is T8. In each forest the prefix varies, for example. It is ST in Sariska and B in Bandhavgarh, P in Panna and so on. However the regular visitors, local guides and ardent wildlifers fondly start calling the Tigers by the names, and some of these names stay with the Tiger for entire life and even beyond.

Taking the case of Machali (T16), who was arguably most photographed Tiger in the wild. The reason behind her name machli was the fish shaped mark on the left ear
of her face. Also, she inherited this name from her mother. She was one of the most tourist friendly Tigers in Ranthambhore and there was a time when Ranthambhore was synonymous with Machli. Every one going for a Ranthambhore safari would be keen to get a dekko of Machli for their trip to be fulfilled. She was famous for her tussles with the crocodiles of the primelake area she dominated in Ranthambhore. Post her, the lake area was dominated by her own daughter T17 who came to be known as ‘Sundari’. She was one good looking Tigress and inherited the traits of posing for safari vehicles from her mother Machli. She was all set to become another legend of Ranthambhore but her untimely death had cut short her stardom. Then her sister who took over the reins from her was named Krishna, as also she was relatively a shy one amongst the siblings. Another beautiful Tigress, T39, is called Noor. Noor and her sub-adult cubs are a prime attraction in Ranthambhore as of now.

Coming to the males now, arguably the biggest Tiger of Ranthambhore tourism zone is called Fateh named after Fateh Singh Rathore, ex-Field director of Ranthambhore and one of the leading conservationists in history of India. Another Tiger, T24, which some times used to growl or charge at safari vehicles was named as “Ustad”. Later he got embroiled in man-eating controversies and was shifted to Sajjangarh Biological Park in Udaipur. His brother, a shy Tiger relatively, was named Zalim due to his unpredictable behavior, and occasional charging at vehicles in his early days. Then there is star male, T28, which has a 5 point star mark on his left eye. He was once the dominant male of lake area and a new generation of Ranthambhore Tigers is his lineage.

If we have to look back at all the names, we see that most of the times the names are given because of some behavior (charging at vehicles, shape of tail) or some facial traits of the Tiger (beautiful, some mark on face). More than the forest department issued numbers, these Tigers get known by these names for their lifetime. Also with these names, they become a part of our extended family where we relate identity of each Tiger by its unique name and regular visitors develop a bond with these individuals.