Col Jim Corbett
Colonel Jim Corbett was born at Nainital in 1875, the eighth child of Christopher and Mary Jane Corbett. His father was the postmaster of Nainital. He did his matriculation at Nainital’s Philanders Smith College where he was admired by his masters for his modesty and retiring nature. He did not pursue his academics any further.
He spent his summers at Gurni House in Nainital while in winters he went down to Kaladhungi in the tarai jungles. It was here he was taught how to fire a gun by his eldest brother, to. Their bungalow in Kaladhungi was inside a dense forest in which a large variety of plants and animals found refuge. The abundance of wildlife in Nainital those days can be gauged from the fact that Jim spotted tigers and leopards within a six and a half-kilometer radius of the temple of the goddess Naini. As a result of living in such exotic and beautiful surroundings he developed a spontaneous affinity with nature.
At the tender age of ten he found himself addicted to hunting, he had shot his first leopard and would just pick up and train his gun on any wild animal he encountered in the Jungle. When he was eighteen he joined the railways at Mokama Ghat in Bihar working as fuel inspector and assistant station master. He then became a labour contarctor.
When the World War I broke in 1914, he took a batch of five hundred Kumaon labourers to France. He was good at recruiting and organizing labour and was able to make them work for him willingly. He also helped the British government by training allied soldiers in jungle warfare, he then hold the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1920 after his health broke down he resigned from the job and returned to Nainital and for the next twenty-four years he served as an elected member of the Nainital municipal Board.
While serving in the railways at Mokama Ghat, he would spend his holidays at Kaladhungi. Shikar of course would claim most of his time, He had bagged two man eaters, a feat which made his name a house hold name in the far flung areas and long before he was known as a skilled jungle man leading Shikar parties for the dignitaries. It was during one such Shikar parties with three army officers the turning point came in the life of Jim – One a Shikar party somewhere in northern India they came upon a lake with thousands of water fowls. They were delighted to see the sight and shots rang echoing in the entire valley. In a matter of minutes their count stood at three hundred waterfowls. Jim could not stomach this sacrilege. From that day he developed an aversion to this type of Shikar. And while his friends were overjoyed Jim 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 Shikar as a sport. There after he shot only those tigers which had turned man-eaters or cattle lifters.
Jim considered it his duty to kill such dangerous animals, a duty he carried out faithfully till his last days. E killed his last man-eater when he was well past sixty In those days the terror of Man-eaters loomed heavy on the regions of Kumaon and Garwhal and Jim was the only man who had the guts to take on and kill such bloodthirsty beasts, endowed as he was with his superlative skills required for the job he killed man-eaters in their den, in open grassland, in dense forest and on rocky slopes. Some of his most famous encounters are published in his six books of which the man-eaters of Kumaon and The Man Eating Leopard of Rudra Prayag are well renowned.
After World War II he settled in Kenya with his sister Maggie. It was there that at the ripe age of eighty he passed away leaving behind a legacy which still reverberate in the valleys of Kumaon and Garwhal.
In all his years serving the cause of wildlife preservation and later deliverer of peace and tranquility in the man eater infested regions of Kumaon and Garwhal Jim became inherent with the wildlife conservation and the Indian Government in 1956 renamed the park – Corbett National Park in honour of Jim Corbett the powerful missionary for wildlife preservation in India. A fitting tribute to the White Saint.