T-12 ‘Maya,’ Renowned Tigress of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Believed Deceased as Remains Discovered; DNA Analysis to Confirm Fate

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Mohammad Suleman Baig : T-12, commonly known as Maya, was a dominant tigress in the Pandharpawani area of the core zone of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. She was born in December 2010 to a tigress known as Leela and a male tiger named Hiltop tiger. Since June 2014, T-12 gave birth five times (2015, 2017, 2020, and 2022), contributing a total of 13 cubs. Unfortunately, most of them, except for 4 cubs from the second and third litters, did not survive until breeding age due to various natural reasons.

She was consistently monitored through systematic camera trap exercises since 2014 and was last captured in camera traps during the phase IV operation conducted from March to May 2023 (as depicted in the pictures).

The territory utilized by T-12 from 2014 to 2023, based on capture history, is illustrated in the following maps.

Her final visual confirmation occurred in August 2023, reported by TATR patrolling staff in the Panchdhara area near Tadoba Lake. However, there have been no sightings since then, causing concern about her well-being and location among both TATR authorities and regular tourists.
To confirm her presence, extensive monitoring operations were initiated in her known territory from October 7, 2023, utilizing camera traps and regular patrolling. The entire area encompassing Tadoba and Kolara ranges, recognized as her territory and movement space, was surveyed during this operation. Throughout the process, 11 different tigers (6 females and 5 males), namely T 07, T 114, T 115, T 158, T16, T 120, T 138, T 164, T 168, T 181, and T 100, were captured in her territory since October 7, 2023.


Nevertheless, T-12 evaded capture in the area, giving rise to the possibility of her absence. As a final measure, an intensive foot patrolling cum combing operation was conducted from November 16 to 18, 2023, involving frontline staff from the TATR core area, Special Tiger Protection Force units, and protection camp patrolling staff.

The operation was led by Deputy Director (Core), TATR Mr. N. K. Kale, with the support of Veterinary officer Dr. Ravikant Khobragade, Biologist Ms. Prajakta Hushangabadkar, DFO Mr. Sachin Shinde, ACF Mr. Ganesh Misal, and RFOs from Kolara, Tadoba, Karwa, Moharli, and Kolsa, including Mr. S. S. Dube, Bhawik Chiwande, Vinod Jambhule, A.R. Gaund, and Rundan Katkar, respectively, under the guidance of Field Director, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Dr. Jitendra Ramgaokar.  During 16 to 18 November 2023 a total of 150 staff members formed 5 teams in which RFO, Round officer, forest guard and forest labour participated in combing operation and team no. 3 RFO Jambhule succeeded in finding the tiger bone

On November 18, 2023, the combing teams discovered the remains of a tiger in compartment number 82 of the Tadoba beat in the Tadoba range. The remains comprised the tiger’s skeleton, scattered in an area with about a 100-meter radius. All the remains were carefully gathered, and samples were collected for DNA analysis by the wildlife veterinarian and biologist for further examination. According to the wildlife veterinarian, the remains were in a highly advanced stage of decomposition, unfit for additional postmortem examination. Furthermore, it appears that the tiger died due to natural causes, considering the location of the remains and the absence of any human activity in the area.

The samples will be promptly sent for DNA analysis to the National Centre for Biological Sciences and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Bangalore. They will be matched with known DNA samples of T-12 collected during an ongoing scientific study. The reports are anticipated to be received by November 30, 2023. A final statement regarding the status of T-12 will be issued upon receipt of the DNA analysis report.

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