Bringing down a man-eating tiger not the same as downing a bowl of cornflakes. Jim Corbett, hunter extraordinaire stands tall when it comes to tracking and bringing down man-eating big cats; tigers and leopards.
The “Carpet Sahib” as he was called left a deep imprint on the Indian mind fighting for the cause of protecting wild cats and exterminating the rogues.
The Indian Government turned to this brave tracker and naturalist to end man-eating big cats- panthers, tigers, and leopards in the 20th century.
His childhood was spent in the forested Kumaon region, attributed to his lifelong inspiration to protect people and animals alike.
The Early Years
Edward James Corbett was born in British India on July 25th, 1825, in Nainital. The 8th of 13 children, he was born of Willliam Christopher Corbett and Mary Jane Corbett. Christopher Corbett was the postmaster of the town.
During winter, the family would go down to their cottage called “Arundel” in Chhoti Haldwani or “Corbett’s Village,” presently Kaladhungi. It is in ruin now sadly.
Jim showed an uncanny aptitude for mimicking bird calls and subsequently mastered the art of identifying animals and birds by their calls from an early age.
He was fascinated by the forests and wildlife of Kaladhungi. Therefore the wilderness and expanse of the Himalayan foothills had him spending much time outdoors as a young lad. Consequently, the regions’ natural beauty absorbed him. Hence his honing of hunting and tracking skill was only natural.
The First Commission-The Champawat Tigress, The Unquencheable Cat
Picture Credits: https://www.ripleys.com/weird-news/the-tiger-queen/#comment-644313
The Champawat tigress, a massive Royal Bengal tigress, started her rogue run in Nepal in 1903. She had already chalked up 200 human kills there before being driven by the Nepalese Army across the Sarda river into the Oudh and Agra’s provinces of India.
There, she continued with her spree killing another estimated 234 people.
There was only one man the authorities knew of who could bring this tigress down- Jim Corbett, who was called in to help.
He readily agreed on two conditions.
“one that the Government rewards be cancelled, and the other, that the special shikaris, and regulars from Almora, be withdrawn. My reasons for making these conditions need no explanation for I am sure all sportsmen share my aversion to being classed as a reward-hunter and are as anxious as I am to avoid the risk of being accidentally shot.”
His two conditions being accepted, finally the hunt began in 1907.
Tigers- Some facts
A Female Bengal tigresses can be about 8 feet long, weighing 300 pounds.
Their strength is enormous. Tigers have a jaw strength far exceeding that of a Great White Shark. A swipe of the paw is enough to shatter a human skull.
Humans are not the natural prey of tigers. So why do turn to maneating? In particular this is an explanation, for instance, due to either some disability or old age. As a matter of fact, Jim firmly held this theory valid.
The Champawat tigress proved him right as she had broken teeth, making it impossible for her to hunt her usual prey.
Jim tracked the tigress to the vicinity of Champawat village. All residents had boarded in out of fear for five days. But, shortly after his arrival, the tigress struck again, taking a 16-year old girl, Premka Devi.
The pug marks and trail of blood led Corbett directly to the predator. It nearly cost him his life as the cat had no fear of humans and almost ambushed him. Realizing that the beast was unnaturally bold, Corbett went back. Coming back the next day with 300 villagers, Corbett got her in his sights bringing her down after getting the tigress into a corner.
The total tally of kills stood of the Champawat Tiger at 436 people over four years came to a close.
The Champawat tigress made it to the Guinness Book, but reports suggest another tigress notching up 700 kills in the early 20th century.
Corbett- The Hunter Who Stood Apart
Jim Corbett stands apart as a tracker/ hunter. He shunned shikaras, porters, and the like. Therefore he set out on his hunting ventures, alone with Robin, his ever-faithful gundog.
Jim Corbett exterminated some such 33 predators.
His exploits are many. But the overall aim was at protecting humans from big cats which for some disablity fell on easier prey- humans.
Some of his famous kills are:
The Panar Leopard which has a claim to some 400 kills.
The Leopord of Rudraprayag, in 1926, which cleverly picked on hapless pilgrims making the arduous trek to holy sites such as Kendrnaath and Badrinaath.
The Bachelor of Powalgarh pictured below; was his last kill- a tiger “of record proportions,” as he put it.
This was his last kill. Thereafter, he turned his efforts towards being a conservationist. Edward James Corbett was instrumental in founding the Corbett National Park which exists today, name unchanged.
He went on to educate villagers.
Cats tend to attack to protect their younger. Therefore, big groups of human beings make them insecure to begin with. Secondly forest encroachment is a big factor for them straying out. In short, Jim gave the poor villagers pointers to bring harmony between man and animal.
He went on to volunteer in both World Wars and won a Colonelship.
A Tribute to Colonel Edward James Corbett
Quote- “It is of these people, who are admittedly poor, and who are often described as ‘India’s starving millions’, among whom I have lived and whom I love, that I shall endeavor to tell in the pages of this book, which I humbly dedicate to my friends, the poor of India.”- E.J Corbett.- Unquote
A Very Tall Man-Curtains
Role model, naturalist, environmentalist- thus Edward James Corbett remains an idol to me and all Indians.
The population of Royal Bengal Tigers in the Sunderbans, not afar from where we live, is booming. But sadly the lack of natural prey is turning them into maneaters- poor crab catchers who venture deep into the creeks get taken.
Edward James Corbett took to wildlife photography and extensive writing. about not only his field exploits but also on the delicate balance that nature needs.
He retired to Kenya in 1947. Interestigly Queen Victoria joined him for a cuppa at Treetops, his treelogde built into a Ficus tree.
His lecacy, Panthera Tigess Corbetti- a tiger named after him, for the cats he gave his life to.
Inexplicably, Edward James Corbett was never knighted.
He went his way in 1995.
I embedd a video from Youtube that traverses several boundaries.
Reverance To Collarwalli a Tigress Who Died Recently to Old Age