“No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Animal in History” by Dane Huckelbridge, William Morrow, 280 pages, $26.99.
Readers who visit the recently acquired and critically endangered Sumatran tigers at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo should be required to first peruse the book “No Beast So Fierce” by Dane Huckelbridge. Those readers would re-discover proper respect for the tiger, which is Asia’s apex predator. The public’s perception of tigers has gradually been softened by cultural influences from A.A.Milne to Kellogg’s cereal advertisements. They are definitely not a cuddly species.
The unifying thread of this book is a 1907 confrontation between an unheralded British hunter and a Bengal tigress which had killed and eaten 436 humans in Nepal and Northern India. Like movies featuring encounters between humans and ferocious predators such as the great white shark in “Jaws” and the African lions in “The Ghost and the Darkness,” the search for the man-killer known as the Champawat Tiger provides a suspenseful narrative.
However, the underlying value of the book is the research documented by the author exploring the circumstances which inexorably brought a lowborn Irish railroad employee who was born in India into a deadly duel with a creature ordinarily preferring to avoid human contact. The same issues responsible for transforming Jim Corbett into a legendary tiger hunter acknowledged by Queen Elizabeth II also impelled him to become the foremost champion for the preservation of the Bengal tiger in its natural habitat. One of the largest tiger preserves in India today is known as Jim Corbett National Park.
The reader is likewise introduced to the history of Nepal and British colonialism in India and the man-made environmental changes which inevitably forced animals content with their natural jungle superiority to develop appetites for human flesh.
Vintage photographs of Corbett and his quarry are included and demonstrate the veracity of this gory tale which otherwise might have appeared to be torn from the pages of Rudyard Kipling.
Author Huckelbridge continues to demonstrate his versatility and skill as a writer with this book. This reviewer has previously lauded one of his prior books concerning a less sanguinary liquid entitled “The United States of Beer.”