Saturday, 25 April 2015

India and Kenya Linked By Wildlife Conservation Since 1947 Thanks To Jim Corbett

A two year old male tiger in Jim Corbett National Park, India

Having spent a considerable amount of time photographing wildlife in Tsavo East National Park, almost every Tsavo traveller and holiday maker i have met during my visits is fascinated by the story of John Henry Patterson, the famous Author of the book 'The Man-Eaters Of Tsavo'. It is in essence a biography of his extraordinary experience while building the railway over the Tsavo River between 1898-1899. It is hence fair to assume that John Patterson is quite a household name in Kenya. Yet hardly anyone in Kenya is aware that our country was also once home to a world-famous pioneer in Indian Wildlife conservation; Edward James "Jim" Corbett, during the British Rule.

Jim Corbett worked for many years at the Indian Railways and spent most of his time in the jungles of India where he saved the lives of many distressed locals from the Tigers and Leopards that turned Man Eater. After successfully hunting down two big cats that killed over 400 people each, his books the 'Man eaters of Kumaon' and 'Man Eating Leopards Of Rudraprayag' talk about this experience. His interest in sport hunting gradually dwindled over time as his love for wildlife and the need for their conservation took precedence for most of his life. Hence with great effort, Corbett founded the very first national park in India which has now been renamed after him.

Male tiger seeks out a new territory in Jim Corbett National Park, India.

After India gained Independence in 1947, he left the country and sailed for Kenya via Mombasa where he finally settled in Nyeri and operated a wildlife safari agency. Because of his extraordinary conservation efforts in India, Corbett was invited to dinner by the British Royal family in 1952 at theTreetops Hotel where he dined alongside Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The next morning upon receiving news on the death of King George VI, Princess Elizabeth was declared Queen. Jim wrote this very famous quote in the resort guestbook: "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".

Jim Corbett never returned to India after his move to Kenya and on April 1955 following a heart attack, he passed away and was laid to rest at the Cemetery of St Peter's Anglican Church in Nyeri.

Having visited Jim Corbett National park recently and learning about his fascinating conservation history, i wanted to share his story and some photographs of the fantastic Tiger Sightings in the park with you.

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