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An Assessment into the Life of Jim Corbett- The Conservationist

Vandana Tripathi and Smita Sharma

Research Scholar, Department of English, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur
Research Scholar, Department of Business Administration, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur
Deforestation has resulted in an imbalance of the forest ecosystem. This has affected not only the species
residing in the forest but also those outside it. Tigers are vital part of the natural balance and energy flow
in any ecosystem. All species of tigers are in danger of extinction and therefore the ecosystems in which
they live are endangered as well. This paper tries to gain an insight in the life, work and vision of Jim
Corbett. He was a hunter and conservationist who dedicated his life to the restoration and conservation of
the apex animal in the forest ecosystem. He was an environmentally conscious man who dedicated
himself as a savior of wild and human life. The fundamental reason and the urgent need of the hour which
calls us for the survival of tigers is our own survival as a human race.
KeyWords: Deforestation, tigers, extinction, survival

Tigers occupy the tertiary position in the food web of any ecosystem. They are a vital part of the
natural balance and energy flow in any ecosystem. Unfortunately, there are only 1,411 left and if
we dont act now then they will soon be extinct. All species of tigers are in danger of extinction
and therefore the ecosystems in which they live are endangered as well. To save tigers, the
primary requirement is preservation of their habitat. This will allow tigers to roam freely and also
protect many other endangered species. By saving these habitats, the forest ecosystem can also
be preserved. Therefore, by saving tiger we can ensure a healthy ecosystem.
Jim Corbett was an environmentally conscious man who dedicated himself as a savior of wild
and human life. Corbett was the man who pioneered the effort to preserve India's wildlife. He
was one of the major preservationists of Indian wildlife. Jim Corbett played a significant role in
the establishment of Corbett National Park in the year 1936.It was Corbett who initiated the

warning of the tigers imminent demise from overshooting and environment destruction. Corbett
started on with the countrys seminal conservation magazine, India wildlife.
Early Life
Corbett sahib as Edward James Jim' Corbett was a British hunter who spent most of his life in
India. Corbett was born on 25th July, 1875 at Nainital, United Provinces, British India (now
India). He was the eighth children of Willam Christopher , a postmaster and Mary Jane Corbett.
His father died when he was 4, while serving at the 'volatile' Afghan border. He was brought up
by his mother.
He did his matriculation at Nainitals Philanders Smith College where he was admired by his
masters for his modesty and retiring nature. He did not pursue his studies any further. He gave up
his school to feed his family and assist his mother in raising and educating 12 children. He
proved his skill at the gun at the age of 8.
He used to live at their Nainital estate during summers and spent his winters in their "Irish
cottage" at Kaladhungi, fifteen miles away from the Tarai jungles. It was here he learned to fire a
gun by his elder brother. His bungalow in Kaladhungi was surrounded by dense forest where
large variety of plants and animals took shelter. Living in such beautiful natural world, cultivated
in Corbett an expected liking of nature. He was attracted towards the wilderness of forests and
learnt to hunt. At the young age of ten, he felt captivated towards hunting.
He first joined the railways at the age of eighteen at Mokama Ghat in Bihar working as fuel
inspector and assistant station master and thereafter became a labor contractor. During his service
in the railways at Mokama Ghat, got hold of two man eaters which made his name a house hold
name in the far flung areas and soon he started leading many shikars in the Jungle. The defining
moment came in Jims life during one such Shikar parties with three army officers.
The Transformational moment
Jim with three friends set out for a Shikar party when they came across a lake with thousands of
water fowls. They started to fire and within few minutes there lied three hundred waterfowls
dead. Jim could not digest this sacrilege. A transformation underwent in him by seeing the
lifeless bodies of these innocent birds. From that day onwards, he developed revulsion to this

kind of hunting. He vowed never to kill a beast without a reason. After he had killed a man-eater
known as the Kuara of Pawalgadh in the mid thirties he gave up hunting as a sport. He became
the savior of simple hill folk of Kumaon and Garhwal from those tigers which had turned maneaters or cattle lifters. He devoted his life to save the natural world and chose not to marry.
Corbett Sahib
He came to be known as 'Carpet Sahib' to the locals. He was summoned to hunt man-eaters
tigers and leopards. Corbett had killed 14 leopards and 9 tigers that had turned into man-eaters
when the United Provinces were still in charge of the sub-continent. He lived uninhibitedly in the
region was called upon by the government occasionally for the reasons of hunting dangerous
He walked on for days and weeks, often on steep winding trails. Familiar with the Indian Jungle,
he could read the jungle signs. He could acknowledge the small changes in the forests and had a
great knowledge about the ecology of the forest ecosystem. He never shot a tiger or leopard until
he was sure that the animal had become a man-eater.
The Man Eaters
He was known as a shikari, a killer of man-eaters. He loved the people of India and understood
their needs and sentiments. It is for them that he risked his life many times. Jim Corbett, unlike
most other Englishmen, mixed with the local people, spoke their dialects, which he had picked
up from the servants, and gave much to his workers and the villagers. Corbett was hailed as a
Gora (white) Sadhu by the village people. His sympathies always rested with the underdogs-the
deprived, the unloved, and the depressed. 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
claimed 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. 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.

The Literary Bent and Classics

Between the years 1907 to 1938, he shot down several man eating tigers and leopards. At times,
he put his life in danger in order to save lives of others. Corbett started recording wildlife films
and took the act of conserving tigers.. Instead of a gunshooter, now he shot from his camera.
Corbett was a fervent photographer. Although he had an intimate knowledge of the jungle, it was
a challenging task to obtain good pictures, as the animals were exceedingly shy. He also
chronicled his experiences in detail in gripping books. 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"
The Man Eaters of Kumaon, Man Eating Leopards of Rudraprayag and The Temple
Tiger,Jungle Lore, and many other hunting classics, authored by Jim Corbett enjoy critical
acclaim and success. His first book, `The Man Eaters of Kumaon` (1944) had a section on
photographing tigers. The latter`s `With a Camera in Tiger land`, published in 1927, was the first
book on Indian wildlife in which every picture was of wild animals. But it was Corbett`s defence
of tigers with his pen that has stayed on in the memory of his readers, not only in English but
also in a dozen Indian languages into which his books have been translated. He became the most
widely read of all authors on India`s wildlife by the time of Independence of the country.
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
The Later Life
Later on in life, Corbett became deeply concerned about the fate of tigers and their habitat. He
took to lecturing groups of school children about their natural heritage and the need to conserve
forests and their wildlife. He 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.
Corbett spoke out for the need to protect India's wildlife from extermination.

Corbett joined the prominent lawyer, Hasan Abid Jaffry, in founding a Provincial Association for
the conservation of Indian Wildlife in the 1930s. Jim Corbett persuaded the provincial
government to create India`s first national park that is Corbett National Park in 1936. It is said
that Jim Corbett was far more sympathetic to the problems of those who lived along the fringes
of the forest than other professional foresters were.
Jim Corbett was anxious about the state of tigers even after post independence. His work and life
reflects the concern for the tigers in Indian Jungles. Its a matter of irony that though at present,
there is a lot of encouragement towards ecological and nature writing, works done by Corbett is
overlooked. Corbett was not a colonialist, he was a global environmentalist who recommended
us to think and rethink about our surroundings. He believed that every species on earth are
interdependent and interlinked. The National park named after him is a vision of Corbett which
calls for protection of the tiger and its surroundings.
Due to increased human encroachment and deforestation, the wildlife is in danger. Today the
dawn of civilization presents before us the intricacies associated with our complex lifestyle. We
need to be compatible with the living bodies around us so that sustainability of life may be
assured. Time has come we learn from the past and move towards in the future ensuring the
sustenance of all species on earth. The fundamental reason and the urgent need of the hour which
calls us for the survival of tigers is our own survival as a human race.


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