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Project Nilgiri Tahr: Forest dept starts pilot study in Valparai

A comprehensive synchronised census of the animal will be held in March

Project Nilgiri Tahr: Forest dept starts pilot study in Valparai

Representative picture

CHENNAI: As a part of Project Nilgiri Tahr launched by Tamil Nadu government in October, the State forest department has commenced a pilot study before conducting synchronised census to estimate the population of the state animal.

The pilot study is being conducted in Valparai in Anamalai Tiger Reserve, which is home to Nilgiri Tahr.

“Tamil Nadu begins the first pilot study for population estimation of Nilgiri Tahr under its newly launched ‘Project Nilgiri Tahr’ to conserve the mountain ungulate. The Pilot will be followed by a comprehensive synchronised census in March 2024 covering Tahr habitats in Tamil Nadu,’’ department secretary Supriya Sahu said.

She added that a team of 25 people has been drafted to implement the 3-day protocol for a pilot study in the Western Ghats. The pilot study will test five different methods and arrive at the most suitable one for the census in March.

The study will be conducted in partnership with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Advanced Institute for Wildlife Conservation, Tamil Nadu, and WWF-India (World Wide Fund). The team has introduced drone surveys for correct estimation.

Srinivas R Reddy, chief wildlife warden, said that the forest department is in talks with Kerala and Karnataka as the range of Nilgiri Tahrs spreads across three states.

“Already discussions were held to conduct the synchronized census. Further discussions are ongoing to finalize the methodology of the census. Earlier, population estimation of Nilgiri Tahrs was conducted but was division-wise. This will be the first synchronised Nilgiri Tahr census in the State, “ he said. Moreover, the synchronised Nilgiri Tahr census will be conducted every year by the State government, unlike tiger and elephant censuses.

Central government conducts a synchronised tiger census once every four years, while a synchronised elephant census is conducted once every five years.

It may be noted that the government issued a Government Order in December 2022 to launch the project indicating objectives.

Under the project, the department will develop a better understanding of Nilgiri Tahr population, distribution, and ecology, re-introduction of Nilgiri Tahr to their historic habitats, address proximate threats, increase awareness among the public, develop Tahr-based eco-tourism activities at selected sites and develop educational material for school children.

The project office has been set up in Coimbatore.

The government also announced October 7 as Nilgiri Tahr Day in honour of Dr ERC Davidar, whose birthday falls on the day. He pioneered one of the first studies on Nilgiri Tahr in 1975.

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