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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Man eating Leopard of Rudraprayag

Man eating Leopard of Rudraprayag

The Leopard of Rudraprayag was a male man-eating leopard, claimed to have killed over 125 people. It was eventually killed by famed big cat hunter and author Jim Corbett.

Jim Corbett Man-eating Leopard 1925

The first victim of the leopard was a villager of village Benji. For eight years, no one dared move alone at night on the road between the Hindu shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath, for it passed through the leopard's territory, and few villagers would leave their houses. The leopard was apparently so desperate for food that it would break down doors, leap through windows, claw through the mud or thatch walls of huts and drag people from them, devouring them. The British Parliament requested the aid of Corbett in the autumn of 1925. In the town of Rudraprayag there is a sign-board which marks the spot where the leopard was shot. There is a fair held at Rudraprayag commemorating the killing of the leopard and people there often consider Jim Corbett a Sadhu.

Several well known hunters tried to bag this leopard. The British government offered huge rewards to kill the beast. They even sent a special army of Gurkhas after it, in addition to assigning a number of army personnel known for their marksmanship and tracking abilities. They even employed high powered Gin Traps and deadly poison to eliminate the animal, but without success.

Corbett was armed with his favourite rifle, a .275 John Rigbys received as a gift for killing the Champawat man eater in 1907, from the Governor (of U.P), Sir John Hewett. He tried his luck in several areas in and around Rudraprayag. Still no success. Never in his life, Jim spent so much time and effort to bag a single animal. He realized that the man eating leopards were more cunning and elusive than the man eating tigers. Now, when the day finally came for him to abandon the hunt and return to Naini Tal, Corbett decided to try one more night to locate the leopard, and eventually on the night of 26th May 1926 shot the dreaded man-eater at the village Gulabrai.

Corbett's notes revealed that this leopard, an elderly male, was suffering from serious gum recession and tooth loss. While skinning the leopard, Corbett found several wounds, some of them were healed, in the leopard’s body. It’s left hind foot was disabled as a result of an old bullet wound with one toe and a claw missing from it. He also found a pellet of buckshot stuck in the skin by his chest, all made by careless hunters.

Jim Corbett with Panar Man-eater

An analysis of many of the man-eaters taken by Corbett and other hunters has revealed that these are enough reason for a large cat like a leopard or tiger to abandon its natural prey and go after the easy one that walks on two legs. When the animals are too sick or compromised to hunt their normal prey, and thus turn to hunting humans, who are much easier to hunt and kill than wild game.

The story of the Rudraprayag leopard was in the public domain, as it was discussed in the House of commons and received much media publicity in India and abroad. It was the last book Jim Corbett wrote while still in India.

This Leopard was the only man-eater which had played havoc and his terror reigned for 8 long years in India killing over 125 humans.