Tigers of Chowgarh

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The Tigers of Chowgarh were a pair of man-eating Bengal tigers, consisting of an old tigress and her sub-adult cub, which for over a five-year period killed a reported 64 people in eastern Kumaon over an area spanning 1,500 square miles (3,900 km2). The tigress was attacking humans initially alone, but later she was assisted by her sub-adult cub. The figures however are uncertain, as the natives of the areas the tigers frequented claimed double that number, and they do not take into account victims who survived direct attacks but died subsequently. Both tigers were killed by Jim Corbett.

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First victim

On December 15, 1925, a group of men from the village of Dalkania went up a hill to the hut of a Bhutia in order to complain to him for having seemingly allowed his goats into their crop fields. The man’s sheep dog was found dead, and the next day, his remains were found 100 yards from the hut.

Jim Corbett was called upon from Nainital to hunt down the tigers in February 1929. Three man-eaters had been reported in the Kumaon Division at the time, and Corbett chose to hunt the Chowgarh tigers due to their higher body count. A map recording the sites of each kill showed that the tigers were most active in the villages of the north-eastern face of the Kala Agar ridge. Corbett arrived at the Kala Agar Forest Bungalow in April that year after a four-day march. The last victim in the area had been a 22-year-old cattle grazer. The victim’s grandmother offered Corbett three buffaloes, in addition to his four, for use as bait. Upon receiving updates on the tigers' whereabouts, Corbett set off to the village of Dalkania 10 miles (16 km) away the next day. Upon arriving, he was informed that the tigers had unsuccessfully attacked a party of women picking corn 10 miles (16 km) north of Dalkania. Corbett left for the village at 3:00 p.m. and arrived the next day, where he found the village in a state of panic.

Hunt for the tigers

At midday, Corbett left for the valley where the villagers had heard the tigers calling. By evening, he reached the upper end of the valley without having seen anything, and by the following afternoon, Corbett was met by a cattle grazer stating that the tigers had taken a cow that night. Tracking the tigers to a ravine, he found the predators eating the dead cow. Corbett fired at the lighter-coloured animal, assuming it was the adult. Upon hearing the shot, the other tiger bolted, and Corbett, upon examining the carcass, found that the dead tiger was in fact the cub. After the cub was shot, the tigress attacks on human became less successful, as she was sometimes unable to kill victims on her own.

First hunt for the tigress

The following day, Corbett decided to use the four buffalo baits. For ten days, there were no reports of attacks and the buffalos were untouched. On the eleventh day, a woman was attacked half a mile on the far side of the village. After dressing her wounds, Corbett tied a bait goat on a nearby tree, though it was not taken. Three days later, Corbett was informed that a woman had been killed in Lohali, a village five miles (8 km) to the south of Dalkania. Upon arrival, Corbett was approached by a village elder who implored him to save his daughter who had escaped from the tiger with serious injuries. Though Corbett dressed her wounds with permanganate, she died the following night. After a week, Corbett left Dalkania, though he promised to return upon hearing of another attack. During the journey, Corbett saw fresh pugmarks, and warned a buffalo herder nearby to be wary. Immediately after Corbett left, the herder was attacked by the tigress, which was driven off by the buffaloes. Before dying, the herder warned his village of the tigress’ presence.

Second hunt for the tigress

In February the next year, Corbett returned to Dalkania, where many deaths had occurred since his departure. Corbett tied a buffalo in the forest near the village, and shot two tigers accepting the bait. Upon inspecting the carcasses, he found that neither were the man-eater. After staying in Dalkania for a few weeks, Corbett left to attend an appointment with the district officials in the terai.

Third hunt for the tigress

On 22 March 1930, Corbett received an urgent request from his District Commissioner to go to Kala Agar, fifty miles from Nainital. On arrival, Corbett was told that the tigress had recently killed a woman in the vicinity. Corbett tied his four buffaloes from Dalkania in strategic locations, one of which was killed four nights later. The culprits turned out to be a pair of leopards, which were immediately shot in order to prevent them from killing more bait.

Death of the tigress and post-mortem

On 11 April 1930, nineteen days after his arrival in Kala Agar, Corbett, along with two other men, tied the buffalo baits near an area where a young man had been previously killed. When positioning himself in a ravine, Corbett’s companions rushed to him, saying they had heard the tigress nearby. Corbett encountered the tigress face to face shortly after, sitting next to a large boulder. Corbett fatally shot the animal from a distance of eight feet, whose death coincided with an end to the attacks.

An examination of the tigress’ body showed that her claws and one canine tooth were broken and her front teeth were completely worn down. It was these disabilities that Corbett concluded led this tigress to having become a man eater as it was thus hampered in killing wild game.

Corbett used a .450/400 Nitro Express double rifle made by W.J. Jeffery & Co to hunt the grown-up cub of the Chowgarh tigress which was assisting the mother tigress in its attacks on human beings. The other rifle used by Corbett was a lighter Rigby Mauser made on Mauser 98 action by John Rigby & Company, which he refers to as .275 Rigby in his writings. This calibre is same as the 7×57mm Mauser. It was this .275 Rigby with which he killed the Chowgarh tigress on 11 April 1930 at a location Corbett describes as being two miles west of Kala Agar, a mountain village at the time.

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