Believe it or not, this Uttarakhand teacher has outscored British legendary hunter Jim Corbett in shooting down man-eaters.
Popular among locals as the double-barrel saviour, Lakhpat Singh Rawat, 50, has gunned down 45 man-eaters in 13 years, while Corbett had killed 33 during 1907 and 1938. Rawat had hunted one tiger too as his 35th kill in 2011, while “Corbett had shot down 19 man-eater tigers and 14 leopards," says deputy director of Corbett Tiger Reserve, Saket Badola.
But, Rawat modestly says the number of more kills doesn’t make him greater than Jim Corbett, “who is known the world over as a great conservationist.”
The Uttarakhand government has requested Rawat to cock his gun again and relieve the hill state of a leopard which has killed 13 people in Pithoragarh district since 2012.
Rawat, who comes from Gairsain area, some 350 kilometres from the state capital, says hunting runs in his blood. His grandfather too was a passionate hunter. But he hunted his first man-eater in 2001.
Rawat can't forget the moment when he was called to hunt a man-eater leopard which had devoured 12 children in Gairsain in 2000. Around the same time, he participated in a district shooting championship and stood first. Former education secretary Umakant Panwar came second. Impressed by his shooting skills, Panwar helped Rawat get the license for a double-barrel gun.
Rawat says his highest score has been 12 man-eaters in one year. “That was 2009. I was granted a permit by forest officials. I had to finish the job in the shortest time to avoid revenge killing of innocent leopards by villagers.”
He reminisces that Uttarkashi man-eater leopard, which had mauled five persons to death in 14 days during 2004, was his toughest kill."His area of operation spanned 40 square kilometres. I realised he identified the noise of our vehicle and swiftly changed positions to dodge us," he says.