Collared Tigress (Collar walli)
If her mother is the Queen, then Collared tigress is the ‘Pench Princess’. Named and easily recognisable thanks to her radio collar, she lives and breeds, in her mother’s shadow. Easy going and intelligent, fame came early at childhood, and so it was completely natural to her and her huge litters over the years. Already, in only four years, she has mothered a total of 16 cubs.
Follow the princess here.
Born as part of her mother’s second known litter in October 2005, overseen by her father the aggressive dominant male of the area, appropriately named Charger. Together with her sister and two brothers she grew up under the spotlight of the wildlife ‘Big Brother’ TV programme, as the four cubs of the ‘Spy in the Jungle’ series, which was to be such a huge hit around the world in 2008.
Gregarious and outgoing, she and her three siblings were followed by elephants with ‘trunk cams’ and played with ‘rock cams’ besides their favourite waterholes, so humans, pachyderms, technology and the unnatural sounds that they emit, were always around, and have not affected her or her huge family to this day.
With the fame came the visitors, eager to see them all, and it’s not surprising that soon both the collared tigress, like her mother, was quick to use these admirers and their transport to her advantage. She was often seen hunting her favourite meals stalking behind their cover and disturbance and the results were almost always in her favour.
She was initially collared by the Forest Department in March 2008, a month before she gave birth to her first litter at 30 months old in April 2008. Sadly her first three cubs did not survive the coming of the monsoons, and it was a precarious time as her protector, the Kalapahur male, was succeeded by a new male on the block, called Sula (S1).
Her next litter arrived only a few months after her first’s death in October 2008, as tigresses have a very short three month pregnancy. This time the Collared tigress was more cautious taking precautions to avoid the glare of the public, and only brought them out of hiding at 4 months. By now her new protector, Sula resented vehicles and was aggressive and like her father, also charged vehicles on occasions, scaring the occupants out of their wits.
All this litter of cubs though lived to adulthood (C4, C5, C6, C7). In March 2010 one of her male cubs, now growing into a young tigers, was radio collared (C4), but the collar did not last long. He moved out of tourism zone and moved to the Maharashtra part of Pench, across the state border, cattle rustling before both his collar and his whereabouts were lost.
Her other son, at about the same time, achieved notoriety when he was seen to jump vertically into 20 feet high bough of a tree. The instance he arrived, he took fright at the precariousness of his position and the fragility of the branch and tumbled back down to earth somewhat crestfallen.
Having rid herself of her second litter so successfully, only two years later in October 2010, she gave birth to her ‘famous five’ a litter heavily female biased with four daughters and a son. Her work was cut out now, and her skills as a mother and huntress where soon bought to the fore, as many were to recall, as these youngsters grew up. As her fame spread, so the Forest department largely tried to prevent her now huge fan base from enjoying the immense privilege of seeing a pack of six on the prowl. If it was spectacular for her admirers, it must have been a heart attack for any prey that lived in her territory at this time, for instead of the usual one tiger, here was an ambush as dangerous as a pack of wild dogs to its potential victims. One such instance was witnessed when a huge sambar stag, in the prime of his life, was chased for over a mile and half by Mum and her five progeny, a distance that is exceedingly unusual for any big cat to run. However its successful conclusion as a hunt ensured one exceptionally large meal for a mother and her five hungry 11 month old cubs, over a period of four days.
Their skill as hunters, and as an ambush team continued and had them trained as skilled tigers by the time they were only 14 or 15 months old. This made their early independence as younger adults than normal, almost inevitable.
So covered in glory from raising a litter of five to adulthood she was now surrounded by her huge family, nine of her twelve so far having reached maturity. By January 2012 they had begun to disperse, but often kept together and kept meeting. Her son started killing big Nilgai antelope and always called his numerous sisters to join him in the feast, showing unusual brotherly love.
By Jan 2012, the Collared Tigress was again seen mating with Sula (S1) and again by March 2012 she had given birth to a further four cubs (C13 to C16) close to the elephant camp of Alikatta, an area full of lantana scrub, where she could hide her young cubs.
Follow this amazing tigress as she brings up her fourth litter in little over four years.
These life stories have been brought to you through records, diaries and photographs of many experts who have worked in Pench over the last twelve years, with Karun Verma, lodge naturalist, as the lead. They have been written and edited by Julian Matthews. Should you have any photos or information to add to, or dispute, these records them please help us by emailing the editorial team here