‘Sport and Anti Sport: Big Game Hunting in Jim Corbett’s India’
Jim Corbett, arguably British India’s greatest hunter, was actively involved in big game hunting during the first half of the twentieth century. During this period, hunting was recognized and practiced as a popular sport by the adventure loving members of the ruling community. Not only did hunting provide endlessly exciting opportunities to test one’s marksmanship and sporting acumen, but also manifested the control and mastery of the ruling community over the natural as well as the human resources of colonial India.
Elaborate hunting expeditions were organized for viceroys, governors and high officials which offered tailor-made opportunities to these dignitaries and members of their entourage to shoot from their strategic positions on elephant backs a large number of tigers, leopards, bears and an impressive variety of wild beasts. More often than not, such hunting expeditions could aptly be termed as ‘anti sport’ as they led to merciless butchering of hundreds of wild animals within the course of a single day, without providing them a sporting chance to retaliate or escape. The Indian heads of various states and provinces -- known as ‘rajas’ and ‘maharajas’-- were no less guilty in this regard as they indulged freely in unscrupulous slaughter of then abundant yet precious wildlife.
One of the earliest voices of protest against this unethical and wanton carnage of wildlife and ecological destruction was that of Jim Corbett who was widely revered as a messianic hunter of man-eating tigers and leopards in the Himalayan region of Kumaon-Garhwal. Corbett was also pained by the large scale felling of trees by the forest department and the railways. His career had a remarkable progression as a hunter-conservationist-wildlife photographer and all his writings are deeply coloured by his pioneering conservationist ideas.
f) Keywords: sport, anti sport, big game hunting, British India, popular sport, unethical and wanton carnage of wildlife, pioneering conservationist ideas