Birthday: July 25, 1875
Died At Age: 79
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Edward James Corbett
Born Country: India
Born in: Uttarakhand
Famous as: Hunter, Naturalist, Writer
father: Christopher Willam Corbett
mother: Mary Jane Corbett
siblings: Maggie Corbett
Died on: April 19, 1955
place of death: Nyeri, Kenya
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Edward James Corbett, better known as Colonel Jim Corbett CIE VD, was a hunter, tracker, and author. He is best remembered for hunting man-eating tigers and leopards in British India. On several occasions, Corbett was summoned by the Government of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh to contain the ‘man-eaters’ which had cost almost 1,500 human lives over the years. After years of hunting wild animals, he stopped after he became more compassionate towards wildlife. Jim Corbett then became a photographer. In his later life, he only used his rifle to shoot wild animals when they hurt cattle or humans. He documented many of his hunting expeditions in his books like ‘Man-Eaters of Kumaon’ and ‘The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’. Despite a record 33 kills, man-eating tigers and leopards included, Corbett had always been a big advocate of conservation of natural balance. He delivered numerous lectures and provided information to educational institutes and societies about wildlife and its importance to nature. He helped in creating Hailey National Park, the first national park of Asia, in 1936. It was later renamed in his honor as Jim Corbett National Park.
Childhood & Early Life
Edward James Corbett was born on July 25, 1875, in Nainital, North-Western Provinces, British India. He was the eighth child of Christopher William Corbett, who worked in the British Military, and his wife Mary Jane.
Jim Corbett grew up in a village named Kaladhungi, in Nainital, along with his siblings, after his father left the military service and took the job of a postmaster in the area.
Corbett’s father died in 1881 when he was just six years old. His mother eventually became very influential among the Europeans in Nainital and became a prominent real estate agent for the fraternity. While Corbett’s eldest brother took their father’s job of the postmaster, he started to grow fond of nature and wildlife around their village.
Jim Corbett learned a lot about the wild and the animals, including identifying them by their sounds and calls. This quality of his would later become one of his greatest traits in hunting man-eaters. He learned to track animals and birds in the wild by their trails and eventually became a brilliant tracker as well as a hunter.
Jim Corbett didn’t spend much time in colleges and after he completed his education at the Oak Openings School (currently known as the Birla Vidya Mandir, Nainital), he looked for employment. Corbett joined the Bengal and North Western Railway (a wing of the current Indian Railways) as a fuel inspector.
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Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Jim Corbett hunted down dozens of man-eating tigers and leopards, often on the request of the government. In his books, Corbett described all the hunts and the man-eaters he had killed.
From his accounts, it is estimated that the wild beasts had killed over 1,200 humans, including women and children, and countless farm animals.
The Champawat Tigress was the first man-eater he killed in his life. The Bengal tigress had killed about 436 people (as registered) in Nepal and the Kumaon area in Uttarakhand.
The tigress went on a rampage in Nepal and after many hunters tried to kill her and failed, the Nepalese army was summoned. Interestingly, the Nepalese army also failed to hunt her down and eventually forced her over the border to India.
The tigress entered the Kumaon district and feasted on her human preys. The tigress killed a sixteen-year-old girl in broad daylight as she had always done before. Corbett wrote in his book that he had never heard or come across a single man-eater who liked to hunt in broad daylight.
In 1907, after the tigress killed the girl, Corbett followed the blood trail and spotted the tigress, which almost killed him in the process. The next day, he arrived with almost 300 villagers and organized a beat. With his rifle, he first shot the tigress twice, on the chest and shoulder, and again on the leg to ensure she couldn’t come after him while wounded.
Corbett killed the first man-eating leopard in his life in 1910. The Panar Leopard, from the district of Almora, had already killed over 400 people as accounted for by the locals. Corbett hunted down the leopard in 1910.
The pilgrims of Kedarnath and Badrinath were more afraid of the man-eating “Leopard of Rudraprayag,” than they were of the treacherous path to the Hindu shrine. Within a span of over eight years, the notorious wild beast had killed over 120 pilgrims. Jim Corbett managed to kill the animal.
Corbett later stated that these animals had started killing humans probably because they were injured or otherwise unable to hunt food for themselves in the wild.
His other notable kills were the Tigers of Chowgarh, the Muktesar man-eater, Talla-Des man-eater, the Thak man-eater, and the Mohan man-eater.
The Bachelor of Powalgarh
In 1930, Jim Corbett killed a tiger that was not a man-eater. Named the Bachelor of Powalgarh, this giant wild beast was notorious among the Powalgarh locals. A villager once pleaded to Corbett to save them from the dangerous animal as he was feeding on the cattle.
The 10 feet 7 inches long tiger was then hunted down by him. He shot the tiger twice, with one shot hitting right under his eye. However, the tiger survived for four days with the fatal wound, and Corbett finally killed him by shooting him again.
Death & Legacy
Jim Corbett was a lifelong bachelor.
He left India in 1947 and went to Kenya where he continued working for the wildlife, spreading awareness and raising his voice for the wild animals. Corbett was aware of the dangers humans faced from these wild beasts and did everything in his capacity to protect them while also trying to save the wild animals from going extinct.
Jim Corbett died on April 19, 1955, at the age of 79. The legendary hunter and wildlife photographer had suffered a heart attack. He was buried at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Nyeri.
The Hailey National Park that was created in 1936 with the help of Jim Corbett is Asia's first national park. It was renamed in his honor in 1956.
Jim Corbett was also honored with the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal for public service in India in 1928. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1946 on the occasion of the king’s birthday honors.