Rudyard Kipling and Human-Tiger Conflict in Bundi

Rudyard Kipling and Human-Tiger Conflict in Bundi

According to most experts, it is becoming increasingly evident that human-wildlife conflict is on the rise. Almost every other day,  shocking videos and photographs of tiger attacks proliferate all over the media. There seems to be an overall consensus over the fact that conflict between humans and wildlife is increasing rapidly. However, no one ever bothers to ask that while the numbers of tigers and leopards have come down from the lakhs to the thousands, and with current populations only a meagre 5-10% of their erstwhile numbers, why is there an elevation in human-wildlife conflict? Some answer that given the exponential rise in the population of humans, perhaps the tiger’s prey base has also reduced, hence an increase in attacks. Well, let’s see what historical records have to tell us.

Rudyard Kipling, by John Collier, ca.1891. Despite changing times and outlooks, Kipling is still synonymous with the Indian jungle as a result of the popularity of The Jungle Book, adaptations of which continue to be immortalized in film.

One of the more unique historical records of human-wildlife conflict, was found in the town of Bundi in Rajasthan, and it  was written by none other than the celebrated Victorian era British author and poet, Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was in fact, born in India. He also received the Nobel Prize for Literature at the relatively young age of 41, and is still the youngest individual to have ever won the prize. Most are familiar with his collection of fictional stories titled “The Jungle Book” , centered around a protagonist named Mowgli, and his interactions with different kinds of anthropomorphic wildlife in the central Indian jungle.

Kipling described his observations of the number of victims of tiger attacks recorded in a Bundi dispensary, all the while sparing the reader none of his trademark wit. He wrote that between 1887 -1889, he travelled through many parts of India, including Rajasthan, and whilst walking down a street in Bundi one afternoon, someone suddenly called out to him in “rusty” English, “Come, and see my dispensary”.

Bundi in the present. (Photo: Dr. Dharmendra Khandal)

This came as a bit of a shock to Kipling, for at the time, the only people said to be conversant in English in the whole town were two teachers at a local school. The unprecedented third, was a local doctor who had studied 20 years previously at the Lahore Medical College, and ran a charitable dispensary. However, the good doctor’s proficiency in English was not that of a first language speaker. The doctor proceeded to describe the different kinds of patients that visited him, and how his 16 bed dispensary functioned. According to Kipling, there was a crowd of some 25 -30 people, and he approved of the dispensary. The dispensary’s patient records were also written in English, where none of the ailments were spelled correctly (“Asthama, Numonia, Skindiseas, Dabalaty”), but also contained figures under a rather curious heading, “Loin-bite”. When Kipling asked the doctor what he meant by this, the latter responded in Hindi, “Sher se mara” (Kipling was fluent in Hindi, it was believed to be his first language). Following which Kipling humorously commented, ” it was ‘lion bite’ or tiger, if you insist upon zoological accuracy”. Both tigers, and leopards could have been behind the attacks, the chances of a lion being very slim for obvious reasons. According to Kipling, tigers used to injure approximately 3-4 people in Bundi every week. Today, this figure dwarfs the current figure for the entire state of Rajasthan, and bear in mind, this was just a small town.

It appears that as a consequence of the easy availability of cameras, and smartphones, an increasing number of videos and photographs of cases of human-wildlife conflict are rapidly proliferating in the media. Where there are humans and wildlife, conflict is inevitable,  to learn the art of living with it is necessary. Indians, it must be said, know this art relatively well.

Today the jungles of Bundi have become tigerless, but the government is now paying attention to the area, and seeks to prepare it for the tiger’s return. With the unprecedented success of the adjacent Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, the residents of Bundi have also become aware of the benefits of tourism revenue, and eagerly await new tigers.


  • Rudyard Kipling. (1899).“The Comedy of Errors and the Exploitation of Boondi,” in From Sea to Sea; Letters of Travel, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday & McClure Company), 151.

Dr. Dharmendra Khandal (L) has worked as a conservation biologist with Tiger Watch – a non-profit organisation based in Ranthambhore, for the last 16 years. He spearheads all anti-poaching, community-based conservation and exploration interventions for the organisation.

Mr. Ishan Dhar (R) is a researcher of political science in a think tank. He has been associated with Tiger Watch’s conservation interventions in his capacity as a member of the board of directors.


Cover photo caption & credit: Human-wildlife conflict is as old as mankind itself. A revealing cave painting from Bundi. (Photo: Dr. Dharmendra Khandal)

हिंदी में पढ़िए


Hamir – The Fallen Prince of Ranthambhore

Hamir – The Fallen Prince of Ranthambhore

यह पुस्तक श्री अर्जुन आनंद द्वारा लिखित एक कॉफी टेबल फोटोग्राफी पुस्तक है जो विश्व प्रसिद्ध रणथंभौर नेशनल पार्क के लोकप्रिय बाघों की तस्वीरों व् उनके जीवन को साझा करती है तथा इस पुस्तक में स्थानीय लोगों के बीच “हमीर (T104)” नाम से प्रसिद्ध बाघ पर विशेष ध्यान दिया गया है। हमीर एक शानदार जंगली बाघ है, जो रणथम्भौर उद्यान में पैदा हुआ है, लेकिन तीन मनुष्यों को जान से मार देने के कारण एक मानव-भक्षक घोषित किया गया तथा आजीवन कारावास में बंद कर दिया गया। इस पुस्तक में 160 से अधिक तस्वीरें हैं। हालांकि, विशेषरूप से इस पुस्तक का केंद्र बाघ हमीर और रणथम्भौर के अन्य बाघ हैं परन्तु यह उद्यान की व्यापक झलक भी प्रदान करती है। यह रणथम्भौर के वन्य जीवन के बारे में जानने व रुचि रखने वालों के लिए एक अच्छा दस्तावेज रहेगा।

बाघ हमीर (T104) (फोटो: श्री अर्जुन आनंद)


रणथम्भौर का प्रसिद्ध बाघ हमीर (T104) (फोटो: श्री अर्जुन आनंद)

अर्जुन आनंद, एक भारतीय फ़ोटोग्राफ़र हैं। वह दुनिया के विभिन्न देशों में यात्रा करते हैं और लोगों व् प्राकृतिक परिदृश्यों की तस्वीरें खींचते हैं, लेकिन वन्यजीवों के प्रति यह सबसे अधिक भावुक हैं। इन्हें वन्यजीवों के साथ हमेशा से ही लगाव रहा है। इसकी शुरुआत 1980 के दशक में बांधवगढ़ नेशनल पार्क की यात्राओं से हुई जब वे अपने परिवार के साथ वहां घूमने जाते थे।

हमीर पुस्तक के लेखक “श्री अर्जुन आनंद”

अर्जुन अपने काम के साथ लगातार नए प्रयोग करते रहते हैं, जिसमें से कुछ वबी-सबी जापानी सिद्धांत, मिनिमैलिस्म के सिद्धांत (Principles of minimalism) है। ब्लैक एंड व्हाइट तस्वीरें इनकी प्रथम पसंद हैं क्यूंकि इस प्रकार की तस्वीरों में रंगों की बाधा नहीं होती तथा दर्शक विषय के साथ बेहतर जुड़ने में सक्षम होते हैं। यहां तक ​​कि प्रकृति से घिरे जंगल में भी, अर्जुन दर्शकों के लिए एक भावनात्मक अनुभव बनाने के लिए जीवन की स्थिरता और शांति को फोटोग्राफ करते हैं।