COIMBATORE: The Nilgiri tahr, the state animal of Tamil Nadu, is making a gradual comeback in several pockets of the Nilgiris district, from where they once disappeared.
A large population of the animal, listed as endangered in the IUCN and protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act was completely wiped out from areas such as Glenmorgan and Pakkasuran Hills in the Nilgiris, Vellingiri and Kurudi hills in Coimbatore, ‘Panchanthangi mottai’ in Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR).
“The state animal’s presence was documented in these areas five decades ago. After disappearing, the tahr’s presence has once again been sighted in these places in recent years. Also, a few range expansions of the animal have happened and are also documented,” said MA Predit, Associate coordinator, Nilgiri Tahr Project, Western Ghats-Nilgiris Landscape, WWF-India.
Further, he said that slopes and cliffs of Glenmorgan, which run up to Kodanad, except some barriers like Kalhatty, could be an ideal habitat with up to 200 individuals. Similarly, Pakkasuran hills are a potential tahr habitat.
Wildlife activists attributed their reappearance in these places to the exploring tendency of the male tahr.
“They live in groups, but a male joins the herd only during its mating period in June, July and August. Otherwise, it remains either solitary or as all male groups, when they explore new habitats. If they find a suitable habitat, it will bring along its family of others and get colonised. It gives hope for tahr to re-colonise those places from where they once disappeared,” said Predit.
There is a possibility of tahr to re-colonise in areas, where they once existed either through habitat restoration or facilitation of their movement by the Forest Department.
A 2015 study by WWF-India estimated tahr population to be 3,122 individuals in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Wildlife activists attributed anthropogenic pressures to have caused the elimination of their habitat from several parts of the region. “Tahr habitats were disturbed when the Pykkara hydroelectric power project came up and tea estates went on an expansion mode in their areas. Hunting also led to its drastic drop in numbers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Forest officials believe that ‘Project Nilgiri Tahr’ will be helpful in conservation and revival of the animal population.
“Only an announcement has been made and the project is yet to take shape. But, the efforts taken by the state government to remove invasive plant species may help improve their population as the animals prefer grasslands,” said a senior Forest Department official.