I have been to the Jim Corbett National Park a number of times and have thoroughly enjoyed the thrill and excitement of the wildlife sojourn (though a guided and protected one). Every new tour has taught important lessons such as respecting the laws of nature, understanding how nature works, knowing how to trace the footprints of the jungle fauna and what all to do if caught in a difficult situation. While the trips have taught many lessons, the life of Jim Corbett has been equally informative. There had been many hunters before him and even after him but hardly do we come across the names of these people. The fame which was gained Mr. Corbett and immortalized by the naming of this park after him does not have any precedent. I also vividly remember having a lesson in my school days which was actually an excerpt from the book ‘Man Eaters of Kumaon’. The lesson did mention how he hunted a man-eating tiger from the Kumaon region but, at the same time, outlined the reasons why tigers turn man-hunters. The lesson changed the perception about the tigers and made us think deep about their protection and giving them their due space in natural habitats.
Let us get back to the man-Jim Corbett. As per Wikipedia, he was born to a British couple in Nainital in India during the colonial rule of British in India. He was a Colonel in the Army and was often called in to protect the people from the scourge of man-eating tigers in Kumaon and Garhwal regions. These are now in the Uttarakhand in India. Though highly revered for this people protection zeal by hunting down the man-eaters, he was equally vociferous about the protection of tigers from being hunted. This might sound paradoxical but he had a deep understanding of what is driving the tigers to attack humans and it is the humans who are largely to blame for this problem. At the same time, it was also quite well dawned on to him that once the tiger tastes the blood of man, he is drawn to attack the people again and again and the only way to protect the people is to hunt the tiger down.
He aired his views about the need for protection of Indian wild life and setting up of exclusive zones where the humans shall not set up their habitations. He used in influence in the creation of this exclusive zone which is now called by the name of Jim Corbett National Park. His efforts towards conservation of the tigers in particular and the wildlife in general had different manifestations. One of these was the ability to spread awareness about tigers and their declining numbers. He wrote books, used education as a medium and even nudged the governments to take concerted actions in this regard. During the later part of his life, he retired to live in Kenya where is died of a heart attack in 1955. In 1957, the Government of India named the park in Kumaon region as ‘Jim Corbett National Park’.
In the light of this background of the great hunter, or/and conservationist, taking a trip to Jim Corbett is like going on a pilgrimage to pay him the homage and see the fruits of a thriving national park which was created with much persuation in 1930s. There is no doubt that his efforts to create awareness about protection of wildlife have led the government to establish a number of Tiger Reserves and begin Project Tiger. No wonder that this park is world famous around the world for being a trendsetter in its own right.