“Tigers are large-hearted gentlemen with boundless courage.”

Uttaranchal is capable of captivating pious Hindus, civil service aspirants and nature enthusiasts in one go because of places like Rishikesh, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Dehradun, and many national parks dotted across the Himalayan mountain range. On average, Uttaranchal receives 35 million tourists every year.

My first experience with Uttaranchal was unconventional. I took part in a writing retreat in Sathkol, a little outlying village. During the day the skyline had snow-peaked mountains. And as the night set, the horizon extended to encompass you with a star-dusted blanket. The only sound I could hear was the campfire’s crackle. 

And around campfires, an unwritten rule for conversation topics is ghost stories. But in the case of Uttaranchal, there was no need for ghost stories for we had real-life accounts of tigers and leopards that tormented humans. The Champawat tiger holds the Guinness world record of most humans killed by a single tiger – the number is 436. Kumaon, a region in Uttaranchal, was mainly affected by man-eaters. 

The villages of Uttaranchal have had to deal with man-eaters for a long time, they in fact still do

Every village has a constant trepidation that a wild cat might attack them.

It is not straightforward to get hold of such tigers because they can stay at large in areas that expand as large as 1500 sq. miles. While they are at large, they attack villagers as humans are the easiest prey for them. The book, set in the early 1900s, is a thrilling recounter of Jim Corbett’s experiences in dealing with these terrorising man-eaters. 

Jim Corbett, a colonel in the British Army was commissioned to hunt man-eaters. His most prominent kill, or “game” as it is termed, was the Champawat Tiger. For all his mission, he either hunted alone or was occasionally accompanied by Robin, his pet dog. From his years of service, he has helped thousands of villagers and many generations to live in peace in their villages. 

The book is more than his brave stories of slaying man-eaters. It is educational and informative because it opens up the life of a tiger and what causes them to become man-eaters.

By nature, tigers are not man-eaters. They become one because of three reasons as listed below.

  • they are wounded, and thereby weakening them to hunt their natural prey, 
  • Purposely provoked by humans, or 
  • If the tigers face a dire need to protect their cubs.

The first reason is the most common cause for tigers to turn into man-eaters. The wounds caused can range from bullet injuries because of inexperienced hunters to porcupine quills that get deeply rooted in the flesh. In such cases, the tigers resort to humans as we are easy prey. Just one blow is enough to kill a human.

Jim Corbett, although was brought in to kill man-eaters, was in the vanguard of protecting wild cats. As rightly said by Corbett, to classify these animals as a vermin is a crime.

Jim Corbett did a lot more shooting with a camera than a gun. As a result, his documents have helped India and the world to better understand tigers and leopards.

The Jim Corbett national park and many other tiger reserves have been set up to allow these endangered species tigers to live without having the need to turn into man-eaters. This is not to say that tigers and humans are completely safe from each other. A lot more has to be learnt when it comes to learning to live in harmony with nature.

The MAK Tip:

The MAK tip is directly quoted from the book.

“If the greatest happiness one can experience is the sudden cessation of great pain, then the second greatest happiness is undoubtedly the sudden cessation of great fear.”

What is sweeter than defeating fear?

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