Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jim Corbett

I just finished reading "The Man Eaters of Kumaon" and was absolutely blown away. This post is dedicated to the man who I believe at l;east some of you would have heard about
"A cool breeze blew over the lush Indian forest. Jim Corbett was being hunted. The tigress that stalked him was already credited with at least sixty-four human kills, and Corbett hoped that he was targeted to be next. Jim leaned against the rocky slope of a nearby hill and lit a cigarette. The Chowgrath Tigress had already sneaked up on him once in this grove, and he tried to give her the chance to do so again. As the afternoon waned, however, Corbett decided that she was too canny to try the same trick twice.
He opted to lay one last trap for his adversary before the sunlight failed. He led a buffalo into the grove, and tied it up securely as it grazed. If the tigress took the bait she would be able to kill the animal, but would be unable to drag it off. His intent was to circle behind the nearby hill, climb to the top, and give watch to the grove below. It would be a shot of over two hundred yards, but over the years he had felled many a beast from such distances. Even if his long-range shot only managed to wound the man-eating tigress, he would at least be left with a blood-trail to track, and therefore end his months-long hunt.
He set off at a quick pace, anticipating that the tigress would observe his departure and take the opportunity to prey upon the buffalo. As he rounded the hill in a dry riverbed his pace wasn't so hard as to shut out all distraction: in a shallow depression there rested a pair of Rock-jay eggs. As an amateur egg collector, Corbett could not pass up these unusual specimens. He used some moss to wrap them up, and carried the eggs delicately against his belly with his rifle crossed over his chest. He continued briskly along the sand, hoping to make it to the hilltop before the tigress finished her buffalo feast. As he squeezed past a large boulder which blocked most of the riverbed, something in his peripheral vision gave him pause: something orange and black, with a predator's eyes, poised behind the boulder and ready to pounce. In that instant he knew he had been outmaneuvered. With his hands full of Rock-jay eggs, and his rifle hugged against his body, there wasn't much he could do to deflect the imminent attack. He turned his step into an anti-clockwise spin, set the rifle butt against his hip, and managed to fire a single handed shot.
For a moment the tiger was unaffected, and stayed coiled on the verge of springing out. Then her muscles slacked and her head came down to rest on her forepaws. The bullet had entered the back of her neck, and plunged through to her heart. After ensuring that the Chowgrath Tigress was indeed dead, he returned the way he'd come, and believing he couldn't have made that improbable shot without the eggs in hand, he returned them to the nest. It was the least he could do".
Edward James Corbett was born in July of 1875, in Kumaon, India at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains. From the day he was allowed to walk to school on his own, he began taking long excursions through the jungles of India. When night would fall, he had no fear of sleeping anywhere in the wild with only a small campfire for company. On one such trek, caught the attention of the tiger napping. The tiger stepped from cover, and gave him a look that conveyed a message he interpreted as, "Hello, kid, what the hell are you doing here?" He believed that a tiger was keen to leave humans alone and keep to their own business.
As a young adult, Corbett was drawn in with the big-game hunting crowd. He often accompanied a notorious poacher on illegal hunts where Corbett was educated on the intricacies of India's big cats. He developed into a masterful hunter, learning to read the environment by observing the forest creatures' reactions to unseen threats.
In 1906, Corbett's hunting skills were called into action when he was called to use his powers for good instead of evil: to hunt the infamous the Champawat Tiger.
The Champawat Tiger was already credited with 200 human deaths in Nepal before the army drove her out. In India the tigress took another 234 lives. Many had sought her, some claimed to have shot her, but her reign continued unabated. After much personal debate, Corbett approached the ministry, and informed them that he would hunt the Champawat Tiger, but only under his terms: all the rewards for the tiger's kill were to be revoked. During the months that Corbett tracked her, she continued to prey upon the hapless citizenry. When Corbett's well-placed shot finally felled the formidable beast, he discovered the reason for her diet of tender human flesh: she had been shot in the mouth some years earlier, thereby destroying her teeth beyond use on her natural prey.
One such public calamity was the Rudraprayag Leopard. This animal was said to have a fearlessness which allowed it to push through doors or windows, and on at least one occasion, to claw through a wall. For eight years villagers between Kedarnath and Badrinath dared not venture out after nightfall, but despite their caution the Rudraprayag Leopard made meals of 125 people. After months of stalking, Corbett marked one of the leopard's favorite trails, set a goat as bait, and climbed into a mango tree. There Corbett spent ten nights, with only the anxious murmurs of the landscape hinting at the leopard's proximity. Just before midnight on the eleventh evening, he heard the distinct clamor of the goat's bell, and snapped on his weak flashlight. The beam caught a flash of pale fur, and a single shot rang out from the mango tree. The leopard disappeared into the gloom. Five hours later, when the clouds broke, Corbett left the safety of his tree to investigate. There in the silver light of the moon, he found the man-eating Rudraprayag Leopard dead.. He took no joy from the kill; the leopard's crimes were "not against the laws of nature," Corbett lamented, "but against the laws of man."
After having killed the Chowgrath Tigress with a one-handed shot, Corbett found that she was afflicted by a collection of porcupine quills in her right foreleg and the wound was so deteriorated that the tiger's muscle was rotted. Most of the big cats taken by Corbett were also assigned a reason for having become man-eaters. Between 1907 and 1938, Corbett killed a dozen large cats who were collectively blamed for more than 1,500 human deaths. While being hailed as India's most celebrated hunter of man-eaters, Corbett developed a vast respect for tigers and leopards. Years spent stalking intelligent and powerful predators through the forests convinced him that these were graceful creatures that deserved respect. Even these man-eaters held his respect, for he understood that they were merely adapting to their desperate circumstances. "The stress of circumstances is, in nine cases out of ten, wounds, and in the tenth case old age," Corbett once wrote, "Human beings are not the natural prey of tigers, and it is only when tigers have been incapacitated through wounds or old age that, in order to survive, they are compelled to take to a diet of human flesh." Indeed, Corbett admired the wild tiger as "a large-hearted gentleman with boundless courage", and he urged India's people to rally for the conservation of "the finest of her fauna."
In a time when a hunter was measured for how many fearsome animals he could kill, Corbett exuded pride at never having killed a large cat for sport or financial gain. "Those who have never seen a leopard," he said, "can have no conception of the grace of movement, and beauty of colouring of this the most graceful and the most beautiful in our Indian jungles. Nor are his attractions limited to outward appearances, for pound for pound, his strength is second to none, and in courage he lacks nothing."
During the 1930s, Corbett's hunt for India's cats had turned almost exclusively to shooting them with a camera. No one was able to match Corbett's knack for approaching tigers.
In 1875, there were more than 100,000 tigers in the world. In 2007 there was only one tiger alive for every fifteen that lived during Jim Corbett's childhood. Had it not been for the intervention of this large-hearted gentleman, it is almost certain that there would be far fewer–if any–of these remarkable animals alive today.
After 1947, Corbett and his sister Maggie retired to Nyeri, Kenya. He was at the Treetops Hotel, a hut built on the branches of a giant ficus tree, when Princess Elizabeth stayed there on February 5-6, 1952, at the time of the death of her father, King George VI. Corbett wrote in the hotel's visitors' register:
"For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess, and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience, she climbed down from the tree the next day a Queen— God bless her".
Jim Corbett died of a heart attack a few days after he finished writing his sixth book Tree Tops, and was buried at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Nyeri. The national park he fought to establish in India was renamed in his honour two years later and is now nearly twice its original size. It is a favoured place for visitors hoping to spy a tiger in the wild.


Nithin Jayan said...

;-) interesting...luvd it...(yupp i just skimmed thru...k...)

n seems dis is ma first comment in dis wonderful blog of yers...!!!
so officially here's ma HIIIIII

joiedevivre said...

u r tagged

RiverSoul said...

I love his books, myself.
Gr8 book.
Also, i hav replied to ur question abt the tag, nxt to ur comment.
Do check.
And happy FRIENDSHIP Day.

RiverSoul said...

I love his books, myself.
Gr8 book.
Also, i hav replied to ur question abt the tag, nxt to ur comment.
Do check.
And happy FRIENDSHIP Day.

Tara said...

Wow! That made for an inspiring read! I have been to the JimCorbett National Park as well as to the Jim Corbett Museum en route to Nainital. It's a beautiful place! A must visit!
(BTW thanks for the birthday wishes!)

Gagan said...

Hey brother....Happy Friendship's Day!

Ya, the post was a fascinating read for me....loved it so much. And I am willing to grab the copy and start rading it now!!!!:)

Pooja said...

fascinating...made a nice read...


Aneesh said...

Loved reading it :)

Viajero said...

I read The man eaters of Kumaon while in school.....just loved still remains one of my fav books

Saranya said...

An exciting post! Could have made it a bit shorter but still awesome!

Arun PK said...


i know.. its too long for anyone to read fully :) thanks for visitin :)

Arun PK said...


Finally i did the tag... phew!!

Arun PK said...


U've been there?? wow!! i've wabted to visit these places n the himalayas for a long time... dunno when that'll happen!!

Arun PK said...


Thanks man :)

Arun PK said...

pooja, aneesh, saranya,

Thanks.. i know it was really long... thanks for :)

Arun PK said...


i've had excerpts from the book to do in school... got hold of the book only now!