India’s “super mum” tigress was no ordinary big cat.

One of the most famous tigers in India, Collarwali died last weekend aged 16. She played a big role in changing the fortunes of the sanctuary where she lived – Pench Tiger Reserve in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

So named because of the radio collar she wore, she gave birth to 29 cubs in eight litters over her lifetime – a “prolific” legacy, according to one expert.

She became one of India’s best-known tigers after starring in the BBC Wildlife documentary, Spy in the Jungle, which tracked the lives of four tiger cubs over two years. The documentary sparked a surge in visitors to the park, many of whom would ask after Collarwali and her charismatic mother, said Prabir Patil, a naturalist whose association with Pench began in 2004.

Collarwali died on Saturday evening due to complications caused by old age.

Naturalists, forest officers and wildlife photographers speak fondly of an animal they had watched grow up in the reserve – the same forests that are believed to have inspired Rudyard Kipling’s classic, The Jungle Book.

India is home to more than 70% of the world’s tigers – numbers had been in decline but have now risen to 2,976, according to the most recent government estimate. Every year, thousands of tourists head to the 51 tiger reserves dotted across India, hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic animal.