Edward James Corbett
Jim Corbett National Park
The fable of Edward Jim Corbett is still persisting in the minds and hearts of the people of Garhwal and Kumaon. People all over the world know Jim Corbett from his fabulous writings as a famous hunter who later became the adversary of many notorious man-eaters. There are four biographies on him and three films on his life that displays the lucid accounts of his exploits that he has given in his books.
Edward James Corbett was born 25th July 1875 of English ancestry in Nainital districts of Uttarakhand. He grew up spending much of his childhood exploring the wilderness that exists around. Jim Corbett lived his life amidst dense jungle and developed a deep knowledge of the way. Sir Jim Corbett spent his major part of his life at Gurney House (located in Nainital) with his large family, his mother Mary Jane Corbett and his sister Margaret Winfred Corbett, fondly called Maggie. His father, who was postmaster in Nainital died when Jim Corbett was four. The whole responsibility fell to Corbett's mother to raise and educate 12 children on a widow's meager pension. Soon after an early age Jim Corbett has to face with the responsibility of supporting his family of six members so he took up a job with the railways.
Early life of Edward James "Jim" Corbett
Edward James Corbett was born of Irish ancestry in the town of Nainital in the Kumaon of the Himalaya (now in the Indian state of Uttarakhand). Jim grew up in a large family of 13 children and was the eighth child of Willam Christopher and Mary Jane Corbett. His parents had moved to Nainital in 1862, after Christopher Corbett had been appointed postmaster of the town. In winters, the family used to move to the foothills, where they owned a cottage named 'Arundel' in Chhoti Haldwani or 'Corbett's Village' now known as Kaladhungi. After his father's death, when Jim was 4 years old, his eldest brother Tom took over as the postmaster of Nainital. From a very young age, Jim was fascinated by the forests and the wildlife around his home in Kaladhungi. At a young age he learned to identify most animals and birds by their calls - owing to his frequent excursions. Over time he became a good tracker and hunter. Jim studied at the Oak Openings School, later merged with Philander Smith College in Nainital. Before he was 19, he quit school and found employment with the Bengal and North Western Railway, initially working as a fuel inspector at Manakpur in the Punjab, and subsequently as a contractor for the trans-shipment of goods across the Ganges at Mokameh Ghat in Bihar.
Hunting man-eating Tigers
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. He also shot the Panar Leopard, which allegedly killed 400 people. 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. 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.
Other notable man-eaters he killed were the Talla-Des man-eater, the Mohan man-eater, the Thak man-eater and the Chowgarh tigress.
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. 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. In the foreword of Man Eaters of Kumaon, Corbett writes,
"The wound that has caused a particular tiger to take to man-eating might be the result of a carelessly fired shot and failure to follow up and recover the wounded animal, or be the result of the tiger having lost his temper while killing a porcupine".
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 where he worked.
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