This article first appeared in The New Yorker on April 19, 2022
Unlike most tiger mothers, Collarwali was, in fact, a tiger. Her life (2005-2022) was characterized by unusualness. She was unusually large for a female (so big, observers often mistook her for a male, and other tigers were scared to fight with her)…Her mother, Badi Mata, was the subject of the popular BBC documentary “Tiger: Spy in the Jungle,” from 2008. With narration by David Attenborough, the documentary followed the life of Badi Mata and her litter of four cubs, one of which was Collarwali. After this celebrated start, Collarwali lived an unusually long time (the average tiger life span is fifteen years, which she bettered by almost two). When she died, in January, she lay in state on a flower-strewn pyre, and her funeral was attended by a crowd including Madhya Pradesh’s forest minister, Dr. Kunwar Vijay Shah, and a number of other government officials. Mourning was widespread. The giant dairy company Amul published a sepia-colored cartoon tribute with the caption “She Earned Her Stripes!” In a public statement, the state Department of Forest noted that Collarwali had made an “unforgettable contribution” to the tigers in Madhya Pradesh.