The tragic story of a magnificent tiger known as Ustad (Tiger T-24)
I have been a regular visitor to Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve for many years and during that time I have been keenly following the fortunes of many of the tigers in the tourist area of the park. Ustad was born late in 2005 to T22 also known as ‘Gayatri' now an elderly tigress that resided in the Guda area of the Park. He was sired by T20. ‘Jhumroo' who has a direct lineage to the world famous tigress known as ‘Machali’ who gave birth to his father T20, ‘Jhumroo'. As he grew older and stronger he acquired a large home range within the park where he has since sired two litters of cubs with tigress ‘Noor’, T39. Unfortunately during his lifetime he is said to have killed 4 people within his home range, the last being a forest guard who died on the 8 May 2015. However there is no proof that this gentleman was killed by Ustad as another male tiger was in the vicinity at the time. Some people have termed Ustad as a man-eater although there is no evidence that he has eaten any of the 4 deceased. In fact the National Tiger Conservation Authority have now confirmed that this tiger is NOT a Man-eater.
Only very recently a blood test carried out on Ustad shortly after the last person lost his life, found no trace of human tissue. In addition Ustad’s home range abuts the road which thousands of pilgrims use daily to visit the Ganesh temple at Ranthambhore fort. Not once has the tiger ever made any attempt to attack the people -NOT the behaviour of a man-eater! On the 16 May 2015 Ustad was sadly taken away from his natal home where he leaves behind a tigress and two small cubs that are now at the mercy of any other male tiger that takes over his territory in an effort to bring the cubs mother back into oestrus. Ustad now languishes in captivity at a biological park in Udaipur. India's National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) who are responsible for tiger conservation in India have announced that they were kept in the dark over shifting Ustad to the zoo at Udaipur. I hope that the NTCA announcement might persuade the authorities in Rajasthan to think again over keeping this magnificent animal in captivty. In my opinion it is both cruel and unnecessary for this tiger to remain incarcerated for the rest of his life. For any wild animal to be removed from their natural forest home and put into captivity is both mentally and physically unacceptable. I had always hoped and prayed that before it was too late, common sense and compassion would prevail and that Ustad would be returned either to his natal home or another tiger reserve in Rajasthan such as Sariska where he could roam freely once again. However on the 16th May 2020 it will be 5 years since he was unfairly carted away from his forest home at Ranthambhore. Ustad is now in his fifteenth year and sadly it would be unlikely that he would survive for long in the wild amongst other younger and now stronger male tigers. I will always remember this magnificent tiger strolling through his forest home that he ruled for many years with his head held high.
Goodbye Ustad I and many other friends of the tiger very much miss your presence at Ranthambhore.
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies burnt the fire of thine eyes? William Blake 1757-1827
Sadly I doubt that Ustad's eyes are burning bright now in captivity