Friday, January 1, 2010

Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett (published in 1944)

Jim Corbett was a famous hunter and conservationist born and brought up in India during the latter half of the 18th century, and lived up till the mid-1950's. He was also a colonel in the British Indian army, and also worked for the Railways. He is famous (immortalized to some extent) by the naming of one of the large Wildlife sanctuaries in Uttranchal (India), called Corbett National Park, the home of the Royal Bengal tiger (at current count, there are 164 tigers inside the Park).
Corbett was also much respected by the local population of the region, a mountainous and forested regions; since he was called upon by them to kill many of the man-eating tigers and leopards that roamed in the region. Typically, these were animals that were either old or had suffered injuries during fights or when they were shot, and were unable to kill their natural prey. As a result, they turned to hunting easier prey, such as humans and many of them killed tens or hundreds of humans. The terror cast by such cats was such that people would not move out of their homes during the night.

Corbett had become incredibly comfortable with the jungle, becoming a good tracker and lover of nature. This is when he vowed never to kill or hunt down animals for fun, instead only using his gun when required to kill man-eaters.
The book is an interesting collection of 10 such stories where Corbett tracked and shot down these man-eaters in the Kumaon and other regions. Many of these required much effort to track down these animals, including live baits to get them. As you read about these tracking efforts, you learn about how an animal turns to become a man-eater, and you also learn about the efforts involved in tracking down such a man-eater, especially since such a man-eater loses the natural shyness of humans and can easily attack the hunter. These are very interesting stories.

Man-Eaters of Kumaon (Oxford India Paperbacks) (published in 1944)

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