Leopard of Rudraprayag
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (June 2015)|
The first victim of the leopard was from Benji Village. 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 on May 2nd, 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.
Corbett's notes revealed that this leopard, an elderly male, was suffering from serious gum recession and tooth loss. Recent analysis of many of the man-eaters taken by Corbett and other hunters has shown a pattern, in which 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.
At the same time, as the leopard started hunting people eight years before, while still young and strong, old age might not have been the reason for this leopard to become a man-eater. Jim Corbett wrote that, in his opinion, human bodies left unburied during disease epidemics was the main reason for the Rudraprayag and Panar leopards to become man-eaters. At the end of the introduction of his widely known book Man-Eaters of Kumaon, Corbett wrote: "A leopard, in an area in which his natural food is scarce, finding these bodies very soon acquires a taste for human flesh, and when the disease dies down and normal conditions are established, he very naturally, on finding his food supply cut off, takes to killing human beings. Of the two man-eating leopards of Kumaon, which between them killed over five hundred and twenty-five human beings, one followed on the heels of a very severe outbreak of cholera, while the other followed the mysterious disease which swept through India in 1918 and was called 'war fever'." (That is, influenza.)
The animal was the subject of a 2005 low budget BBC Two TV Series Manhunters, in the Episode The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag., which presents an entirely fictionalized representation of Jim Corbett's hunt for the leopard.