jeudi 29 mai 2008

Elephant runs amok




You have to wonder about the news selection process on the msn main page. Well, I have to wonder. In my case, the page comes up in French sometimes and in English sometimes. I don’t see any discernable pattern. It’s just a random thing.

Today it came up in English, and I was immediately drawn to a headline about 7 people who were killed by a raging elephant. I figured it had to be in India and yes, it was in India, near New Delhi. It seems an elephant escaped from a national park and rampaged a nearby village. The article indicated that the park in question is the Jim Corbett National Park. I went to the park's official website to learn more about Jim Corbett, a.k.a. The White Saint (no joke.)

Not surprisingly, Jim was born in Colonial Times (1875) in the town of Nainintal, where his father was postmaster. He was the eighth child in his family (but we don’t know how many children there were in all). His academic career seems to have ended when he graduated from Philanders Smith College (a high school).

He is described as a nature lover who was addicted to hunting by the age of ten. Indeed, he seems to have spent his life killing animals, organizing contract labour, and training combattants to kill in the jungle. The website notes, admiringly, that "When the World War I broke in 1914, he took a batch of five hundred Kumaon labourers to France. He was good at recruiting and organizing labour and was able to make them work for him willingly."

But he missed life in India, and so returned there to live and hunt. One day, however, he had a life-changing moment when a bunch of his friends (or should I say "batch") were bagging waterfowl and the count got up to 300. He was appalled at the slaughter and vowed never to kill for sport again. After that day, true to his word, he killed only "man-eaters" and dangerous beasts, such as tigers that became "cattle lifters."

"Jim was the only man who had the guts to take on and kill such bloodthirsty beasts, endowed as he was with his superlative skills required for the job he killed man-eaters in their den, in open grassland, in dense forest and on rocky slopes. Some of his most famous encounters are published in his six books of which the Man-eaters of Kumaon and The Man Eating Leopard of Rudra Prayag are well renowned.”

(Note to self: See if Amazon.com has these classics in stock.)

After WWII, Jim settled in Kenya with his sister Maggie. The wildlife park was renamed for him in 1956, the year of my birth.

Too bad Jim was not around to bag the big, mean, smart (I learned on msn a few days ago that elephants are among the smartest animals) elephant that escaped from his park. They say elephants never forget, though. Maybe this one remembered Jim from his animal-bagging days and was seeking revenge for the entire wild kingdom.