Friday, September 20, 2013

Lt.Col. Edward James Corbett--Hunter and Conservationist

Jim Corbett at rest in Dhikala

Between 1907 and 1938, Corbett tracked and shot a documented 19 tigers and 14 leopards -- a total of 33 recorded and documented man-eaters. It is estimated that these big cats had killed more than 1,200 men, women and children. The first tiger he killed, the Champawat Tiger in Champawat, was responsible for 436 documented deaths. Recent analysis of carcasses, skulls and preserved remains show that most of the man-eaters were suffering from disease or wounds like porcupine quills embedded deep in the skin or old gunshot wounds, which never healed.

He also shot the Panar Leopard, which allegedly killed 400 people after being injured by a poacher and thus being rendered unable to hunt its normal prey. Other notable man-eaters he killed were the Talla-Des man-eater, the Mohan man-eater, the Thak man-eater and the Chowgarh tigress. However, one of the most famous was the man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, which terrorised the pilgrims to the holy Hindu shrines Kedarnath and Badrinath for more than ten years. This leopard's skull and dentition showed advanced, debilitating gum disease and tooth decay, such as would limit the animal in killing wild game and drive it towards man-eating. The Thak man-eating tigress, when skinned by Corbett, revealed two old gunshot wounds; one in her shoulder had become septic, and as Corbett suggested, could have been the reason for the tigress to have turned man-eater.

By his own account, Corbett shot the wrong animal at least once, and greatly regretted the incident. In addition, man-eaters are quite capable of stalking the hunter. Therefore, Corbett preferred to hunt alone and on foot when pursuing dangerous game. He often hunted with a small dog named Robin, about whom he wrote much in his first book The Man-Eaters of Kumaon.

At times, Corbett took great personal risks to save the lives of others. Still remembered in India as a great preservationist, his memories command fond respect in the areas he worked in.

 Corbett was deeply concerned about the fate of tigers and their habitat. He lectured to groups of school children about natural heritage and the need to conserve forests and their wildlife; promoted the foundation of the Association for the Preservation of Game in the United Provinces and the All-India Conference for the Preservation of Wildlife. Together with F. W. Champion he played a key role in establishing India's first national park in the Kumaon Hills, the Hailey National Park, initially named after Lord Malcolm Hailey. The park was renamed The Jim Corbett National Park in his honour in 1957. He had played a key role in establishing this protected area in the 1930s.

In 1968, one of the five remaining subspecies of tigers was named after him; Panthera tigris corbetti, the Indochinese Tiger, also called Corbett's tiger.

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