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Jim Corbett (1875-1955) was a hunter and naturalist in India. Famous for his writings on the hunting of man-eating tigers and leopards. The Corbett National Park in India is named in his memory.
He was born of English ancestry in Kumaon, in the foothills of the Himalayas. He was a hunter and fishing enthusiast in early life but took to big game photography later. In later life he resolved never again to shoot an animal except for food or if it was 'a dangerous' beast. Between 1906 and 1941, Corbett hunted down at least a dozen man-eaters. It is estimated that the combined total of men, women and children those 12 animals are thought to have killed before he stopped them was more than 1,500. His very first man-eater, the tiger in Champawat, alone was responsible for 436 documented deaths.
Jim Corbett was a very brave man, he would often stalk to within 20 feet or so of the man-eaters who were his quarry, at great risk of death, even though they could not be seen in the heavy brush. Some men who went with him on these hunts were so frightened that they swore never to hunt with Corbett again.
He was a pioneer conservationist and lectured at local schools and societies to stimulate awareness of the natural beauty surrounding them and the need to conserve forests and their wild life. He helped create the Association for the Preservation of Game in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), and the All-India Conference for the Preservation of Wild Life, and he established India's first national park, inaugurated in 1934 in the Kumaon Hills. He also had a deep affection for the people of the Kumoan Hills, and was loved by many of the region.
After 1947, Corbett and his sister Maggie retired to Nyeri, Kenya, where he continued to write and sound the alarm about declining numbers of tigers and other wildlife. Jim Corbett was at the Tree Tops hotel when Princess Elizabeth stayed there on February 5-6, 1952. This also corresponded with the time of the death of her father, King George VI. Jim Corbett wrote in the hotel's visitors register:
"For the first time in the history of the world a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess, and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree the next day a Queen - God bless her."
Jim Corbett died of a heart attack in 1955 and is buried in Africa. The national park he fought to establish in India was renamed in his honor two years later and is now nearly twice its original size. It is a favored place for visitors hoping to see a tiger.
His accounts of the hunting and killing of man-eaters that had killed almost 1,500 Indians, are related in his books: The Man-Eaters of Kumaon (1946), The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag (1948), and the Temple Tiger and More Man-Eaters of Kumaon (1954). Man-eaters of Kumaon was a success in India and was chosen by book clubs in England and America, the first printing of the American Book-of-the-month Club being 250,000. The book was later translated into 27 languages. His Jungle Lore is considered as his autobiography. He did some small writings on the Indian rural life as well.
In 1968, one of the five remaining subspecies of tigers was named after him; panthera tigris corbetti, more commonly called Corbett's tiger.