Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag

This is the hunting tale of a man-eating leopard which had terrorized the villages bordering the river Alakananda for almost eight years. Records show it had killed 125 people (and many more killings did not get into record!) which makes him one of the biggest man-eaters humankind has ever witnessed. 3,000 plus gun license holders in the vicinity and many sportsmen failed to eliminate this leopard, and the serial killings went unchecked had put the colonial Govt. in bad light. This leopard got international fame through media and the devotee visiting holy shrines in the operating area of leopard carrying back the horror stories to their hometowns.

Invitation was sent to Jim Corbett (who needs no introduction). Leopard gave many misses to him too. A missed shot by Jim took off little hair from leopard’s neck but its man hunting continued. He killed a leopard in one of the attempts but found that it was not the man-eater. Series of attempts to hunt the man-eater failed which made Jim depressed but the villagers had an unwavering faith in him. They just believed leopard’s time has not come! While he prepared to pack-up, luck met him with the man-eater walking into the trap he had set as last attempt in a dark night giving him the opportunity he waited for ten weeks. Jim shoots with aim but immediately his torch goes off not letting him know the result of his shot in the pitch dark and moon not in sight. He waits till morning hours before getting down from the tree eagerly waiting to know the outcome, had he got the shot right and was it the man-eater. He feels relieved after identifying the dead body of man-eater and the whole village celebrates. Jim writes that gratitude showered on him was at its high on that day with all villagers thanking him for relieving their lives from fear.

Jim Corbett was born in Nainital and grew up in the Himalayan terrain which gave him the natural exposure to wilderness. His excellent observational skills, putting all senses – sight, hearing and smelling to work, making use of the knowledge he had developed of the way of the jungle, made him unparalleled hunter, gave him success where many had failed. He was also a noted naturalist and a wonderful writer, a powerful combination of talents which created a legend out of him.