T-24, popularly called as “Ustad”, was a dominant male Tiger who occupied Zones 1, 2 and 6 in the Ranthambhore National Park of Rajasthan. He was born in the Lahpur area in late 2006 to the tiger Jhumroo and the tigress Gayatri. His brothers were named as T-23 and T-25 (Zaalim). His grandmother was “Maachli (T-16)”, a celebrated Legendary Tigress.
His brothers were also dominating specially T-25 (Zaalim) who was also named as “Dollar”.This name was given to him because he surprised the forest department of Rajasthan by adopting two orphan tiger cubs whose mother died but T-25 takes care of them by hunting preys for the cubs and he also gave them the training of survival in the forest. T-23 was also a powerful tiger but no one was as powerful as the “Ustad” was.
T-24 rose to dominance in 2010 and took over the Zones 1,2 and 6 of the park. He patrolled his growing 40 square km territory at night and was known to fear the poachers and forest guards. Because of his fearless nature, he was popularly called “Ustad” which means the “Master”. Officially weighing 258 kg measured by the forest department in a paperwork on May 16, 2015 on an empty stomach, he was one of the largest Tigers Ranthambhore has ever seen.
T24’s mating partner was T-39 the tigress, popularly called as Noor and together they had three male cubs from two separate litters. All those cubs are now no longer seen in Ranthambhore National Park but have moved north to Keladevi Sanctuary according to the Field Director Y.K. Sahu.
Tiger “Ustad” had also shared his territory with his own son named “Sultan (T-72)” who was born in May, 2015. He was also a powerful and beautiful tiger like his father. He left his father’s territory in May, 2015 and eventually reported in Keladevi Sanctuary by August, 2015 in a camera trap.
Till 2015, Ustad was in his prime condition. When Ustad was 9 years old, an abnormal event occurred which completely changed his life. On 8th May 2015, T-24 was controversially identified as the Tiger that killed the forest guard “Rampal Saini”. The forest department stated that this was T-24’s fourth human kill and they moved him out of the wild to a zoo in Udaipur in the larger interest of tiger conservation in Ranthambhore. This move caused massive social uproar. Activists argued that all four killings occurred in the core area which is supposed to be inviolate space for Tigers and that there was no definitive proof that T-24 was the killer Tiger. They took their cause to the streets, online and to the courts. According to the activists, people are interfering and damaging the natural habitats which make tigers to move and left their territories due to which they face many difficulties. As “Ustad” was a fearless tiger, he didn’t want any interference of human being in his territory. That’s why he killed all the four men but it was not proven that he ate them.
Though Ustad was not a man-eater still he was sentenced to live his pending life in captivity. Activists protest the case legally, they took their cause to the streets, online and to the courts but nothing changed after the judgement of the Supreme Court. On 28th May 2015, the Jaipur High Court concluded that the removal of T24 was legal, and pointed out that the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve officials are the appropriate authority to make Ranthambhore wild tiger translocation decisions. Activists continue to pursue the case legally but never got success.
In the zoo, T-24 (Ustad) suffered various health issues including “Megacolon” and is on a special diet and medication. He remains the only Tiger to have graced the cover of India Today magazine and the only Tiger to have commanded the attention of the Jaipur High Court, Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India. He is now 15 years old and living his life in a park of just 1 hectare area. In my point of view, he should get freedom from captivity as he was the real ruler of the Ranthambhore National Park.