Edward James Corbett – The Man behind the Jim Corbett National Park

by On Feb 27, 2014

Being one of the oldest virgin woods of Asia, the Jim Corbett National Park is the dream destination of many wildlife lovers and I’m no exception. I also love to explore the pristine wilderness concealed in the dense forest, but this time I decided to know more than just what the forest conceals. Well, this weird idea helped me in unveiling some unheard (or lesser heard) facts about Corbett and its history. I enjoyed them thoroughly and thought of sharing the same with you. So, here am I pouring my heart out on some known and unknown facts about Corbett.

Edward James Corbett – The man who first saved men from tigers and then tigers from men
Almost everyone who has a fair idea about the Jim Corbett National Park is well aware of the fact that the park has been named after Edward James Corbett. Born in India, he was a British hunter, who later turned into a conservationist and contributed considerably in the establishment of the park. Perhaps, this is what we learn when we Google on Jim Corbett National Park or Edward Corbett; however, there is more to the tale. Let’s just flip the pages of Edward James’s History.

From the beginning…

E. James was the eighth child of William Christopher and Mary Jane Corbett. He was born in Nainital, Kumaon district of Uttarakhand on 25 July, 1875. His father William was the postmaster of the town.

Between 1907 and 1938 Edward shot around 19 tigers and 14 leopards. As per the historical facts, these wild cats turned into man-eaters and killed over 1200 people.

Name of some tigers that were shot dead by Corbett are stated as follows:

  • Champawat Tigress: Shot in 1907, killed more than 200 people.
  • Panar Leopard – Shot in 1910, alleged to have killed 400 people.
  • Talla-Des Man-eater – Shot in 1929, killed over 150 people.
  • Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag – Shot in 1925, killed 125 villagers.
  • Mohan Man-eater – Shot in 1930.
  • Chowgarh Tigress and her sub-adult cub – Mother Tigress shot in April 1930, killed around 64 people.
  • Chuka Tigress – Shot in April 1937.
  • Thak Man-eater Tigress – Shot on 30th November, 1938 in Thak Village. It was the last hunt of Edward James Corbett, as after that he turned into a conservationist.

What lead to this drastic transformation, why the hunter became a conservationist?

There is nothing like miracle, this is what I believe. I have always felt that there has to be some strong reason, some logic behind anything and everything that happens, then be it the falling rain or the drastic transformation of Edward James Corbett from a hunter to a conservationist. Fortunately, I found my answer in the book ‘Man Eaters of Kumaon’, which was written by E. James Corbett. In the book there was a line:

“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”.

When Edward analyzed the carcasses of the tigers that he had shot, he came to know that the wild cats were suffering from certain disease or earlier wounds. Some unhealed wounds were of gunshots and some were caused by porcupine quills. All these made him realize that the wounded tigers were gradually turning into man-eaters. Thus, the best way to stop them is to protect them, to keep them away from the careless gunshots. As the tigers were not taking up  man-eating by their will.

What did the conservationist Corbett gave to the world?

Edward James Corbett did much more than just lending a helping hand in the establishment of a national park. As soon as he understood that there is a need to protect the big cats, he made all possible efforts to make the people aware about wildlife and how they are important to our national heritage. He started giving lectures to groups of school children and educated them about the importance of nature and what is the need of conserving woods and the wildlife residing in them. Further, he also promoted the foundation of Association for the Preservation of Game in the United Provinces and the All-India Conference for the Preservation of Wildlife. Subsequently, as we all know, he played a key role in establishing the Jim Corbett National Park.

Besides, he wrote various books describing the beauty of India and Indian Wildlife. Some of his great works are:

  • Jungle Stories, privately published, 1935
  • Man-Eaters of Kumaon, Oxford University Press, Bombay 1944
  • The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, Oxford University Press, 1947
  • My India, Oxford University Press, 1952
  • Jungle Lore, Oxford University Press, 1953
  • The Temple Tiger and more man-eaters of Kumaon, Oxford University Press, 1954
  • Tree Tops, Oxford University Press, 1955
  • Jim Corbett’s India – Selections by R.E. Hawkins, Oxford University Press, 1978
  • My Kumaon: Uncollected Writings, Oxford University Press, 2012

In this way, he gave some wonderful memories to Kumaon and to the world.

Some memories of Corbett at the Corbett Museum

For others, E. James Corbett died on 19 April, 1955,but for the people of Kumaon he is still alive in their memories. The best part is that they have preserved his memories in his very own house that is now famous as the Corbett Museum.

Located in Kaladhungi, Kumaon, the Corbett Museum is among the best places for history buffs. As stated above, this museum was originally the home of James Corbett, and its original name was Gurney House. Corbett sold the place to Mrs. Kalavati Varma, before leaving for Kenya in November 1947.

Why should you visit Corbett Museum?

My reason for visiting the Corbett Museum was that I wanted to know the man behind the “Jim Corbett National Park” from a closer angle. Perhaps, you can also visit with the same intention. The museum exhibits all the personal belongings of Corbett; be it his hunting weapons or prey from different places, manuscripts or sketches, camping equipments or medical kit. It narrates you the entire life sage of Corbett. His entire journey from a hunter to a nature lover and conservationist is well portrayed in the museum.

Some important information about the Corbett Museum

  • Entry fee : 10 rupees per person for Indians
    50 rupees per person for foreign tourists
    03 rupees per person for students, with valid ID cards
  • Timings : All days of the week; 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

The last note

These were some of the historical facts about the man who wrote the history of the Jim Corbett National Park. One of the most interesting and praiseworthy facts about E. James is that he never claimed any acknowledgment for the contributions he made for the establishment of the reserve. In fact in 1936, when the Jim Corbett Park was established, it was named after the Governor of the place, Lord Malcolm Hailey, and was known as the Hailey National Park. Later in 1954-55, it was re-named as Ramganga National Park. It was only after 1954-55 that the park was given the name ‘Jim Corbett National Park’, so as to give a tribute to the leading man behind this major conservation initiative. Thus, it would not be wrong to state the Edward James Corbett selflessly devoted his life in the conservation of nature and therefore, I on the behalf of the world salute the spirit of this legendary personality.