Mike Birkhead Associates - Queen of Tigers

Queen of Tigers

Natural World Special

Premieres Friday 19th October at 9pm on BBC2 and BBC HD

Russian Tiger


She is the most famous tiger in the world. A natural fighter, but also a loyal, loving mother. She rules over Ranthambhore, the most spectacular tiger territory in India and is one of a powerful dynasty. Colin Stafford-Johnson has known Machli her whole life. Now 14 years on, he wants to see his old friend, to discover what has happened to her dynasty on the lakes – an area ruled by her mother. As he followed the young Machli, it became obvious the two were on a collision course. The final clash took place at a spot the young tigress picked. Seeing Machli dethrone her mother made Colin realise that she was something special. Machli still had to learn about the other animals around the lakes, including dangerous sloth bears and crocodiles. She took them on. She was filmed killing and eating a fully-grown crocodile. Her other chief challenge was to meet a male and have cubs. A handsome tiger called Bombooram came calling. Machli was very excited. She'd chosen the dominant male, with the best genes. She soon produced two MALE cubs.

Russian Tiger

When Bombooram disappeared, this happened before he disappeared perhaps poached, another amorous male came into her territory. If they mated, he would likely kill her cubs. Machli kept him interested enough not to kill her, but defeated him in a climactic showdown. She was the queen of Ranthambhore now: she could control the dominant male. Soon after came an extraordinary event: Machli came towards Colin, roaring. She came right past him and lay down on the road. The first cub appeared and lay down on the road with her, quickly followed by the second. Machli was saying goodbye to her two boys. By the time those first cubs left her, Machli had reached four and a half years old.

Fight Sequence

The male that she'd fought became the father of her second litter. But this time she raised her young under the protection of the dominant male. Machli had four litters. She's been by far the most successful tigress in Ranthambhore. Colin witnessed other amazing sights. Once, when Machli was fast asleep, one of her new cubs started wandering away. Another tiger was hidden nearby - a great male that could easily kill the cub. Instead they started playing with each other - it was obviously the cub's father. This was the first time Colin had ever seen a tiger family together.

Russian Tiger

Machli's prowess at reproducing with two alpha males resulted in valuable and spirited offspring. Among them is one particularly powerful daughter – a worthy rival with all her parents' cunning and aggression. She was ready to kick Machli out and take over. Machli was losing her strength: she was intelligent enough to know when to back down. That is how she had survived to become something very rare – an elderly tigress, living apart. And this is why she is so hard to find – until Colin's final day, the last time he's ever going to see her.

Russian Tiger


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