This Day in History (1-May-1926) – Jim Corbett killed the notorious man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag at Gulabrai village

Jim Corbett began hunting at early age to help feed his family. His shooting skill and encyclopedic knowledge of the surrounding jungle soon became well known. As early as 1906, requests came to him, begging that he track down a tiger or leopard that had preyed on humans. Corbett believed that animals that had struck under special conditions, such as protecting cubs if disturbed at a kill, should be given the benefit of doubt. He was only interested in habitual man- killers and consented to come only after two conditions had been met: all offers of a reward were withdrawn, and that all other hunters had to leave the area.

The Leopard of Rudraprayag was a male man-eating leopard, reputed to have killed over 125 people. 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 discovered interest in human meat and would break down doors, leap through windows, claw through the mud or thatch walls of huts and drag people from them, devouring them. A unit of Gurkha soldiers, as well as soldiers who were expert marksmen and trackers were sent after it, but failed to kill it. Attempts to kill the leopard with high powered Gin Traps and deadly poison also failed. Several well-known hunters tried to bag this leopard, and the British government offered financial rewards to kill the beast.

In the autumn of 1925, Jim Corbett took it upon himself to try to kill the leopard and, after an overall ten-week hunt, successfully did so in the spring of 1926. 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. Jim Corbett risked his life many times to shoot the ten man eaters about whom he has written in ‘The Man Eaters of Kumaon’, Man Eating Leopards of ‘Rudraprayag’ and ‘The Temple Tiger’.