Mumbai: Maya tigress, known as the ‘Queen of Tadoba’ and one of the most popular tigresses in India, has been found dead in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Maharashtra. She may have died of natural causes, said Maharashtra Forest Department officials.
Officially known as T-12, Maya was one of the star tourist attractions of the TATR. She had been missing since August 25, and tiger reserve authorities had launched large-scale search operations to ascertain her whereabouts.
Dr. Jitendra Ramgaonkar, Conservator of Forest and Field Director of TATR, said, "The skeleton of a tiger skeleton was found in compartment number 82 of the tiger reserve on Saturday morning. The body parts were in a very advanced stage of decomposition and not fit for autopsy."
The remains of the skeleton, which were scattered over a 100m radius, were collected and will be sent for DNA analysis to National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad. They will be matched with DNA samples of T-12 collected during an ongoing scientific study. The reports are expected to arrive by November 30. A final statement regarding the status of T 12 shall be made on receipt of DNA analysis report, Ramgaonkar added.
According to TATR authorities, Maya was a dominant tigress of Pandharpawani area of core area of the tiger reserve. She was born in December 2010 to a tigress known as Leela and a male tiger known as Hiltop tiger.
Since June 2014, Maya gave birth five times (2015, 2017, 2020, and 2022) and contributed 13 cubs in total, most of which, except for four cubs from the second and third litters, did not survive to breeding age for various natural reasons.
She has been continuously captured in systematic camera trap exercises since 2014 and was last captured on camera traps during the phase IV exercise from March to May 2023.
Maya’s last direct sighting was in August by TATR patrolling staff in the Panchdhara area near Tadoba Lake. In order to ascertain her presence, large-scale intensive monitoring operations were launched in her known territory from October 7 with the help of camera traps and regular patrolling.
The entire area of Tadoba and Kolara ranges, known to be her territory and movement area, was covered during this exercise. In the process, 10 different tigers (6 females and 7 males), were captured in her territory since October 7, 2023. However, Maya was not captured in the area, giving rise to the possibility of her absence in the area.
As a last resort, an intensive foot patrolling cum combing operation was carried out from November 16 to 18 with the help of all the frontline staff of TATR core area, Special Tiger Protection Force units and protection camp patrolling staff. A total of 150 staff members took part in the combing operations.