Farewell to T25, a quite unique tiger
It's been over 10 years since I started visiting Ranthambhore National Park in India. During this time I've seen and photographed wildlife legends, like Machali - the most famous tiger that has lived, and of course they have begun to die as they reach the end of their natural lives. While all tigers, by virtue of their stripe pattern, are unique, one Ranthambhore tiger known as the Dollar male or T25 was unique in a far more remarkable way.
He was born in Ranthambhore in 2007 or 2008 (according to the Forest Dept) and quickly gained a reputation as being a surly tiger who frequently snarled at vehicles. When I first saw him 2010, it seemed clear to me that despite his enormous size and power he was nervous around vehicles, and you had to be very careful approaching a waterhole he was in otherwise he'd get up, snarl and leave. He became known as 'Dollar' after the stripe pattern on his right flank which looked like the currency symbol (see image below).
T25 shot to fame in 2011 when his mate and mother to his two young cubs died. Everyone feared for the 3-month old cubs as the Forst Department had been unable to find them. While the popular myth that male tigers have no role in the upbringing of their cubs was busted decades ago, all convention dictated that it was the tigress who was the main provider of food. T25 changed all that when camera traps revealed that he had taken on the role of provider, as well as protector, and he became the most famous single-dad in the animal kingdom overnight. Both cubs survived to adulthood. As far as I know, this behaviour is unique amongst wild tigers.
T25 died in mid-January 2020 making him 12-13 years old at the time of his death. Some newspapers report he was 15. Whichever, it's a grand age for a wild male tiger, as they live a hard life, constantly patrolling huge territories, deterring other territorial males and facing up to younger males looking for a territory to call their own. They are true warriors but their also capable of close family relationships, tenderness and in Dollar's case, periods of selfless devotion to his cubs.
Farewell, big man.
Our first encounter with T25 in the summer of 2010. He really had a wild intensity about him that I've not encountered in Ranthambhore before.