A naturalist who loved wildlife as his life, an author of critically acclaimed books like Man-Eaters of Kumaon, Jungle Lore and other works, a gentleman who saved many people by staking his own life, a hunter and slayer of 33 fearsome man-eaters in villages of India and a pure-hearted conservationist who voiced out his support against extermination of the Royal Bengal Tiger; all these describe a man and a legend named Edward James Corbett.
Affectionately called as ‘Shikari’ and ‘Corbett sahib’ by his Indian friends and villagers, this man was born of Irish ancestry in the town of Nainital, Kumaon (Uttarakhand). Even during childhood, Jim had a fascination for wildlife and was an expert in identifying most animals and birds by their calls. He was educated at Oaks Openings School and later was employed at the Bengal and North Western Railway.
A tracker of expertise
Due to his innate love for forests, animals and birds, he became a skilled tracker – one who can track an animal based on its footprints alone even in thick jungles.Corbett could ‘read’ animal tracks like a tiger’s pug marks, scratches on trees, and could tell the direction and speed of the animal, its age and many other facts too. This tracking skill assisted him in hunting.
A hunter but not a killer
From the early age of six, he learnt hunting. Blessed with keen eye-sight, sharp listening skills, fearless heart; he started becoming famous when he began hunting man-eating tigers which often terrorized his villagers. During the period of 1907 – 1938, Jim Corbett tracked and shot 33 man-eaters who have killed around 1,200 people. The first tiger popularly called as the Champawat Tiger shot by him, had taken nearly four hundred peoples’ lives.
The most notable traits of him were
a. He refused to kill an animal unless it turned to be a man-eater
b. He hunted alone along with his dog, Robin and never hunted for reward
Jim Corbett became a strong conservationist and worked for tigers, forests and other wildlife. He was instrumental in establishing India’s first national park in Uttarakhand. Indian government honoured him by naming the park as the Jim Corbett National Park in 1957.
Jim Corbett National Park
World famous Corbett national park is a treasure cove of flora and fauna. Dense forests, grasslands, nearly 580 species of birds including the crested serpent eagle, the red jungle fowl along with several types of fish are found here.
This park is home for Bengal tiger, leopard, jungle cat, barking deer, Himalayan black bear and other animals. Visitors can see herds of elephants (sometimes nearly 100 in a single herd) during summer season. Though a bit rare, the Indian python can also be seen at times.
This wonderful park was possible due to the efforts of Jim Corbett, who lived and bred wildlife throughout his lifetime. A man of no compare, it is true that he is a gentleman shikari and the saviour of masses. Beyond that, he is a wildlife enthusiast to the core.
Jim Corbett National Park is a must visit for all wildlife enthusiasts and naturalists. Words can never describe the thrill of watching animals like deer, tiger, bear, etc., in their natural habitat and in their majestic self.