Jim Corbett, Duff Hart-Davis
How many readers have been gripped by Jim Corbett’s stories of hunting man-eating tigers and leopards in the forested hills of Kumaon, in north-west India? The answer is ‘millions’ – for his books have had phenomenal success since the first of them was published in 1943. Man-eaters of Kumaon has been published by Merlin Unwin Books.
He was, above all, a hunter – a brilliant shot and an outstanding naturalist, able to call up the animals and birds of the jungle. He had astonishing endurance – he often walked 20 miles in a day over mountain tracks – and although apparently fearless, he confessed to moments of terror when confronted by a carnivore at point-blank range.
In youth he shot indiscriminately. But later his aim became to free poor hill people from the paralysing fear which gripped them when a man-eater settled in their territory: the Panar tiger was credited with over 400 human kills, the leopard of Rudraprayag with 126.
In Hero of Kumaon I have done my best to describe Jim’s life, the devotion which he inspired among hill folk, and his influence on the development of conservation in India. To bring the narrative alive, I have included the best of his stories, mostly in his own words.
It seems a miracle that Rigby’s have managed to preserve the .275 Mauser presented to him in 1907 for killing the Champawat man-eater. But here it is – a fascinating memento of an extraordinary man.