Price on request
Famed hunter, Jim Corbett, spent a
year tracking the man-eater of Chowgarh, a tiger
which had conducted a reign of terror by killing 64 people in
4 years. His remarkable quest is recounted here in words and
paint by artist John Seerey-Lester.
Jim Corbett arrived in the Kala Agar
Forest in Eastern Kumaon, India, on an April evening in 1929.
At that time the tiger known as the man-eater of Chowgarh
had conducted a reign of terror for some four years and had killed
64 people. Corbett had already dispatched the famous Champawat
man-eater, responsible for an incredible 436 deaths, and
had now become the man to ask if you wanted to get rid of a man-eater.
The District Conference recruited him again. Corbett knew
that finding this tiger would be very difficult; the kills accredited
to this tiger had taken place over some 1500 square miles. Some
attacks were as distant as 50 miles apart and, in this terrain,
that is a lot to cover for one man. Corbett preferred to hunt
alone, and on foot, and his search area was a maize of small
villages interconnected by well-worn tracks, some going through
dense jungle. His base camp was a small bungalow in the kala
Agar forest provided by the Government. From here he would try
and visit as many of the kill sites as possible, talk to the
relatives of the victims and those who had witnessed the attacks.
If possible, he would return to the bungalow as often as he
During his year-long quest he had been
misguided and misinformed several times which had led him to
incorrectly identify two tigers, which he had shot by mistake.
Frustrated, but not beaten, he returned home for the rains
and came back to the area at the end of the March 1930. By this
time some 26 more people had been killed. He spent another
19 days trekking the forest on foot without success. Oh yes,
he had seen the pugmarks of the tigress many times; he knew their
characteristics off by heart, but he had not encountered the
tigress. On April 10th, this all changed.
He had been watching a kakar (barking
deer) grazing on a hill, and experienced an inexplicable uneasiness
as he approached some rocks ahead of him on the narrow track.
As he cautiously walked towards the outcrop he was remembering
that tigers are unaware that humans dont have a good sense
of smell, so a man-eater will treat human prey in the same way
it would treat a wild animal. It will approach its victim up
wind or lie in wait, down wind. He realizes the rocks ahead
are down wind, a perfect place for the tigress to lie in wait,
he muses. Just then the kakar let out an alarm call and was
now running up the hill to his right and barking hysterically.
Trying to keep down wind, he walked warily 'round the large
outcropping. Keeping his distance to avoid an ambush, he reached
where the kakar had first made its alarm call, but could see
nothing. Cautiously he backtracked 'round the rocks, and there
in the damp clay he saw the all too familiar splayed and scarred
pugmarks of the man-eater. But to his dismay, he noticed that
these tracks were over his own footprints, made earlier. The
tigress had, indeed, been waiting for him in the rocks and had
jumped down to follow him. The alarmed kakar had probably saved
his life. The tigress had presumably gone into the deep undergrowth
or was waiting for him 'round the next bend. As the light was
fading fast giving the tigress a definite advantage, he decided
to call it a day and resume the hunt in the morning.
By early afternoon, the next day, he
had hiked along a track to where a young boy had been killed
a month earlier. He met the father of the boy and some other
villagers who showed him where the incident had taken place.
He followed them to the site; on the way Corbett, an avid collector
of birds eggs, was distracted by an unusual clutch of nightjar
eggs, which he decided were a must for his collection. Holding
the eggs in the palm of his hand, he surrounded them with some
moss for protection, and then traversed the steep and rocky ravine;
his guides were now his followers and were staying close behind.
At one point Corbett sat on top of a large round rock, handed
his rifle to one of the men and then, after a few moments looking
around, slid down the smooth rock, leaping the last few feet,
still holding the eggs. The men followed in similar fashion.
One of them said they had heard a low growl, just as Corbett
had moved from the top of the rock. Corbett assumed he had been
selected by the tigress, and the low growl was a show of disappointment,
as he had slipped from her striking range. The three men, the
father closer to Corbett than the others, walked in single file
'round the face of the large rock, which leaned over a ravine.
There was a tangle of bushes on top of the outcrop and soft
sand beneath. As Corbett rounded the main rock, he entered a
flat sandy area enclosed on three sides by steep rocks. There
lying only eight feet away and facing him with her hind legs
tucked under her, ready to pounce, was the illusive, man-eater
of Chowgarh. Still holding the eggs in his left hand,
his heart pounding fast, the rifle in his right hand, pressed
diagonally against his chest with the safety off, he very slowly
swung the rifle with one hand and began to make a quarter circle.
With the stock in contact with his right side, he extended his
arm and continued to swing until it was fully extended baring
the full weight of the gun. All the time, the almost smiling
tigress, stared at Corbett and he returned her gaze. The gun
having completed its seemingly endless three quarter turn, was
now lined up with her body; he pulled the trigger. The report
was deafening in the confined space of the rocks. The tigress
died without moving, lowering her head on to her front paws.
Shot clean through her heart.
Corbett knew, even before looking at
her pads, that it was the tigress he sought, and he had finally
ridded the Kala Agar Forest of its terror.
Like all man-eaters, three was a reason
for its change in diet. On close inspection it was found that
her claws were broken, and bushed out. One of her canines was
broken and her front teeth were worn down to the bone.
See this and over 100 true stories
and paintings in the book Legends of the Hunt by John
Seerey-Lester to be published soon.