Jim Corbett

By Kushagra Mittal

What does ‘terror’ mean to you? It’s a word you probably hear often, but what does terror actually feel like?

For the people of Kumaon and Garhwal, it (fear) was the well-known man-eating tiger and the Rudraprayag leopard who had collectively claimed over 400 lives of the locals. For them, Jim Corbett was a God’s man who had come to their rescue.

Jim Corbett was a British hunter and conservationist, author and naturalist who shot as many as a dozen man eating tigers and leopards who were collectively claimed to have preyed on over 1500 humans in the United Provinces in the British Raj.

Jim Corbett
Jim Corbett

Jim Corbett was born on July 25th, 1875 at Nainital in Kumaon. He studied at Oak Opening School which merged with Philander Smith College in Nainital which later came to be known as Hallett War School and now known as Birla Vidya Mandir, Nainital. Later, he worked at the Bengal and North Western Railway as a fuel inspector at Manakpur in Punjab and subsequently as a contractor for the trans-shipment of goods across the Ganges at Mokameh Ghat in the Bihar. Later he was officially appointed by the Government of United Provinces as the only authorized person to hunt and shot the man-eating tigers and leopards down.

From the very early age, Corbett was fascinated by the forests and wildlife around his home in Kaladhungi. Through frequent excursion, he learned to identify most animals and the sounds of the birds which bestowed him with an exemplary skill to communicate with the wild creatures and birds.

It’s ironic and well questioned that how could a person who was known for shooting the tigers and the leopards dead be termed as a conservationist? The fact being he shot them for a reason. He believed that the animals have a strong reason to attack humans.

Corbett very skilfully analyzed the reasons to why these animals develop man-eating tendencies, only to discover that they are compelled through the stress of circumstances beyond their control to adopt a diet alien to them. In fact, in 9 out of 10 cases he found that the reason for the animals turning man-eaters was the wounds that the poachers had given them. The wound might be the result of the loss of a carelessly fired shot by the hunter or of loss of temper when killing a porcupine. The other possible reason for the Tigers and the leopards to prey on humans, he analyzed, was the old age that changed their tendency of eating an animal to human flesh. He spread awareness amongst the people to respect the nature in order to take respect. He highlighted the mistake on part of the locals that turned the animal, a man-eaters.

jim hunting tiger
Jim hunting the tiger

He was deeply concerned about the illegal poaching of the wild animals, including the Royal Bengal Tigers and remarked upon the same fearing the extinction of the tigers & other animals from the world. He also stated very fiercely & severely that the day the tigers get extinct from this world, the wildlife would come to halt. The balance of the nature will be stunned.

Through his extensive literature, Jim Corbett illustrated his encounters in the Himalayan forests with the man-eaters. Some of his worldly acclaimed books being The man-eater of Kumaon, More man-eaters of Kumaon, Temple Tiger, The man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, Jungle Lore .His books not only described his hunting stories but also splendidly inspired many to save the wildlife.

 His excellent depiction of the hunting ground in the thick deodar forests in the foothills of the Himalayas make the readers bite their nails picturing in their minds the scenario of him endangering his life while shooting the tiger & the leopard down. At times it took him months to search for the man-eaters in the forests. He would climb up on the tree for days to make a precise shot to kill the man-eaters dead at once.

It was immensely refreshing for the readers to read his realistic stories of man-eaters. His work is well appreciated and credited around the globe. It highlighted his profound skills in hunting and also his remarkable expertise in bringing the readers round to his views on conservation of the wildlife. He was very beautifully able to convince the people to devote to the protection of the wildlife and environment.

He was indeed different. It cannot be denied that it was very difficult to convince people in those times to not kill the animals and also explaining them the real reason behind the animals turning man-eaters, but he with such ease was successful in changing their minds and making them realize & accept their faults.

His maiden work as an author, The man-eater of Kumaon was dedicated to the gallant soldiers, sailors, and the airmen of the United Nation who during the second world war had lost their sight in the service of their country.

In the introduction of Corbett’s book, Mr. M.G Hallett appreciates his works as,

“Corbett’s description of this campaign against the man-eaters of the Kumaon Hills shows the qualities that a successful Shikari(hunter) needs, physical strength, infinite patience great power of observation and power not only to notice small things but also to draw the right inference from those things.”

His literature still inspires the teenagers making them pledge to save the nature. More people have started to know Corbett. His works are being highlighted more than before. It’s never too easy for a hunter to convince people to conserve the wildlife, but he stands as an unopposed victor in conquering the soul of the people, making them dedicate their life to conserve the wildlife. Many wildlife projects have been undertaken in order to meet Corbett’s expectations. The fearful yet fearless stories of Carpet Sahib’s encounters with the man-eaters have been passed from generations to next making him the hero with the kids in Garhwal and Kumaon. Children have a very strong & noble personality in their hearts who they can take inspiration from.

jim in keniyan army
Jim in keniyan army

It was Carpet Sahib of the locals who persuaded and influenced the provincial government of the United Provinces to establish the first National Park on India for the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers of India under the name of Hailey National Park. It was later renamed as Ramganga National Park. After the death of Jim in 1955, it was renamed as Jim Corbett and National Park. The new name honors the well-known author and conservationist, Jim Corbett.

Jim was such a person that local writers and poets could not ignore him in their writings. They were compelled by the fear of the locals and their own to pen down the stories of the man-eaters.

The famous writer of Kumaon, Deven Mewari, in his book Meri Yaadon ka Pahad pays tribute to the hunter and the conservationist Carpet Sahib of the locals who liberated their village from the terror of the man-eater.

World of literature keeps on increasing from the last centuries to the present moment. Heroes and contributors of literature do exist overtime and Jim was one such author whose knowledge will be fruitful for the future endeavors.

Corbett’s fear of tigers’ extinction haunts the locals of Garhwal and Kumaon and even the world. Could we really meet his expectations?

Is naming a national park after him, is all to be done to pay tribute to the great soul?

It’s a paradox that we claim to be inspired by Corbett but fail to meet his expectations to save the wildlife. We pledge to save the environment but destroy it with our very own hand. We claim to respect the wildlife but do not fail to tease the dumb animals.

When Corbett hunted down the first man-eater of Kumaon in 1907, there were over 1 lakh tigers in the world. The number got down to less than 1500 in 2010. We finished almost a whole race of tigers in a century. This is what we have gifted the great departed soul.

Let us all pledge to save the nature and devote ourselves to saving the wildlife. Let people know what a great man Corbett was. The irony lies in his introduction as hunter & conservationist. Let us bring back the glory of our forests. Let us let the animals feel free in their own land. Let us take steps to avoid the man-wildlife conflicts. Let us remember him. Let him inspire more and more people around.


Buy some of the great works by Jim Corbett !

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