ABOUT SNAKES AND TIGERS

A gentleman in Bombay told me that 50,000 people are killed in India every year by snakes and tigers, and his extraordinary statement was confirmed by several officials and others to whom I applied for information. They declared that only about one-half of the deaths from such causes were ever reported; that the government was endeavoring to secure more complete and exact returns, and was offering rewards for the destruction of reptiles and wild animals. Under instructions from Lord Curzon the authorities of the central government at Calcutta gave me the returns for British India for the ten years from 1892 to 1902, showing a total of 26,461 human beings and 88,019 cattle killed by snakes and wild animals during the fiscal year 1901-2. This does not include the mortality from these causes in the eighty-two native states which have one-third of the area and one fourth of the population of the empire. Nor does it include thousands of cases in the more remote portions of the country, which are never reported to the authorities. In these remote sections, vast areas of mountains, jungles and swamps, the danger from such causes is much greater and deaths are more frequent than in the thickly settled portions; so that my friend's estimate was not far out of the way.

The official statistics for British India only (the native states not included) for the ten years named are as follows:

   KILLED BY WILD ANIMALS AND SNAKES.

                     Persons Cattle 
  1892 21,988 81,688 
  1893 24,016 90,253 
  1894 24,449 96,796 
  1895 25,190 100,107 
  1896 24,322 88,702 
  1897 25,242 84,187 
  1898 25,166 91,750 
  1899 27,585 98,687 
  1900 25,833 91,430 
  1901 26,461 88,019 
                     - - - - - - - - 
  Total ten years 250,252 907,619

Taking 1901 as a sample, I find that 1,171 persons were killed by tigers and 29,333 cattle; 635 persons and 37,473 cattle were killed by leopards; 403 human beings and 5,048 cattle were killed by wolves; 1,442 human beings and 9,123 cattle were killed by other wild animals, and 22,810 human beings and 5,002 cattle by snakes. This is about the average record for the ten years, although the number of persons killed by tigers in 1901-2 was considerably less than usual.

The largest sacrifice of life was in the Province of Bengal, of which Calcutta is the capital, and where the imperial authorities have immediate control of such affairs. The government offers a bounty of $1 for every snake skin, $5 for every tiger skin, and a corresponding amount for other animals. During 1901-2, 14,301 wild animals were reported killed and 96,953 persons received rewards. The number of snakes reported destroyed was 69,668 and 2,858 persons were rewarded. The total amount of rewards paid was $33,270, which is much below the average and the smallest amount reported for many years. During the last ten years the amount of rewards paid has averaged about $36,000 annually. The falling off in 1901-2 is due to the discovery that certain enterprising persons had gone into the business of breeding snakes for the reward, and had been collecting considerable sums from the government by that sort of fraud. Hereafter no one will be able to collect claims without showing satisfactory evidence that the snakes were actually wild when killed or captured. It is hardly necessary to say that no one has thus far been accused of breeding tigers for the bounty, although large numbers of natives are engaged in the business of capturing them for menageries and zoological gardens.

In the maharaja's park at Jeypore we saw a dozen or more splendid man-eating tigers, which, the keeper told us, had been captured recently only twelve miles from that city. His Highness keeps a staff of tiger hunters and catchers for amusement. He delights in shooting big game, and several times a year goes into the jungles with his native hunters and parties of friends and seldom returns without several fine skins to add to his collection. His tiger catchers remain in the woods all the time, and he has a pleasant way of presenting the animals they catch to friends in India, England and elsewhere. While we were in Jeypore I read in a newspaper that the Negus of Abyssinia had given Robert Skinner two fine lions to take home to President Roosevelt, and I am sure the maharaja of Jeypore would be very glad to add a couple of man-eating tigers if he were aware of Colonel Roosevelt's love for the animal kingdom. I intended to make a suggestion in that line to him, but there were so many other things to talk about that it slipped my mind.