Nilgiri tahr

India Launches First Project to Save Nilgiri Tahr [2023]

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Nilgiri Tahr

India has long been known for its diverse wildlife, and one of its most precious creatures is the Nilgiri Tahr. Found in some of the highest mountain ranges of southern India, these majestic animals have been facing a growing risk of extinction due to environmental and human pressures. To ensure their survival, a new conservation project was recently announced that aims to protect this species by protecting their habitat and encouraging the sustainable use of the environment.

At the cost of 25.14 crores, India’s first Nilgiri Tahr conservation project would be initiated to protect the Tamil Nadu state animal.

The Nilgiri tahr is a species of wild goat that is native to the Nilgiri Hills and the Western Ghats mountain ranges in India. It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu, a state located in the southern part of India.

The Nilgiri tahr is known for its distinctive physical appearance, with a stocky build, short, dense coat, and long, curved horns. It is found in montane grasslands and shola forests, which are small, isolated patches of dense, evergreen forest that are found at high elevations in the Western Ghats. Nilgiri tahrs are herbivorous and rely on the vegetation found in these habitats for food.

Despite its status as the state animal of Tamil Nadu, the Nilgiri tahr is classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and poaching. Efforts are being made to protect and conserve this species, including the establishment of protected areas and the implementation of conservation programs.

Nilgiri Tahr conservation project
Nilgiri Tahr conservation project

About Nilgiri Tahr

  • The Nilgiri tahr is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern section of the Western and Eastern Ghats in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • It is the Tamil Nadu state animal.
  • Despite its local name, it is more closely related to Ovis sheep than to ibex and wild goats of the Capra genus. There is just one species within the genus Nilgiritragus.
  • According to the 2015 WWF-India survey, its wild population is estimated to number 3,122 individuals.
  • Eravikulam National Park contains the most inhabitants.

About the Nilgiri Tahr project

  • Announced during the state budget of Tamil Nadu for 2022-23.
  • The project will be carried out over a period of five years, from 2022 to 2027.
  • The initiative will consist of nine components, including biannually synchronised surveys across the division, diagnosis and treatment for affected individuals, and a pilot Shola grassland restoration project in Upper Bhavan.
  • Project Nilgiri Tahr of Tamil Nadu Forest seeks to repair the fragmented ecosystem, particularly the Shola grasslands where it thrives, restore the Tahr population to its ancient home, and guarantee that adequate rehabilitation facilities are given.

GoI project to protect Niligiri Tahr

There is no specific project until the recently declared Nilgiri Tahr Project, which is exclusively focused on the conservation of the Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius). 

However, the tahr is included as a target species in several conservation programs and initiatives that are aimed at protecting and conserving the biodiversity of the Western Ghats mountain range in India, where the tahr is found.

Some examples of these programs and initiatives include:

  1. Project Tiger: Project Tiger is a conservation program that was launched in 1973 by the government of India with the goal of protecting tigers and their habitats. As part of this program, the government has established a number of tiger reserves, which are protected areas that are home to tigers and other wildlife. The Nilgiri tahr is found in some of these tiger reserves, including the Mudumalai National Park and the Bandipur National Park, which are located in the Nilgiri Hills.
  2. The Western Ghats Ecological Authority (WGEA): The WGEA is a statutory authority that was established in 2010 by the government of India to protect the ecological and cultural diversity of the Western Ghats. The Nilgiri tahr is found in the Western Ghats, and the WGEA works to conserve and protect this species and its habitat.
  3. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve: The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is a protected area that was established in 1986 by the government of India to protect the biodiversity of the Nilgiri Hills. The Nilgiri tahr is found within the boundaries of the reserve, and the government works to conserve and protect this species and its habitat as part of the reserve’s management plan.
Nilgiri biosphere reserve
Nilgiri biosphere reserve

Special features of Nilgiri Tahr

The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is a species of wild goat that is native to the Nilgiri Hills and the Western Ghats mountain ranges in India. Some of the special features of Nilgiri tahrs include:

  1. Physical appearance: Nilgiri tahrs have a stocky build with a short, dense coat that ranges in colour from reddish-brown to dark brown. They have a distinctive beard and mane, as well as long, curved horns that are present in both males and females.
  2. Habitat: Nilgiri tahrs are found in montane grasslands and sholas, which are forests that are found at high elevations in the Western Ghats. They are well adapted to living in these challenging environments, with thick coats and hooves that are well suited for traversing steep, rocky terrain.
  3. Diet: Nilgiri tahrs are herbivorous, and their diet consists mainly of grasses, herbs, and other vegetation. They are known to be picky eaters and will often select certain types of plants over others.
  4. Social behaviour: Nilgiri tahrs are social animals and live in herds that consist of females, males, and young. Within these herds, there is a strict hierarchy, with dominant males leading the group and females and younger males following behind.
  5. Conservation status: Nilgiri tahrs are classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and poaching. Efforts are being made to protect and conserve this species, including the establishment of protected areas and the implementation of conservation programs.

Nilgiri Tahr and Shola Forest

The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is native to the Nilgiri Hills and the Western Ghats mountain ranges in India, which are home to a type of forest known as sholas. Sholas are small, isolated patches of dense, evergreen forest that are found at high elevations in the Western Ghats. They are characterised by their high levels of biodiversity and the presence of a number of threatened and endangered species.

Nilgiri tahrs are well adapted to living in shola forests and are often found in these habitats. They rely on the vegetation found in sholas for food, and the dense, forested landscape provides them with shelter and protection from predators. In addition to Nilgiri tahrs, sholas are home to a number of other species, including elephants, leopards, and various types of birds and small mammals.

Conservation of shola forests is important not only for the protection of Nilgiri tahrs but also for the many other species that depend on these habitats for survival. Efforts are being made to conserve and protect shola forests, including the establishment of protected areas and the implementation of conservation programs.

Shola Forest

Shola forests are small, isolated patches of dense, evergreen forest that are found at high elevations in the Western Ghats mountain range in India. They are characterised by their high levels of biodiversity and the presence of a number of threatened and endangered species.

Shola forests are typically found at elevations above 1,500 meters and are characterised by their high levels of humidity and cool temperatures. They are made up of a variety of tree species, including Rhododendron, Michelia, and Myristica, as well as a range of shrubs, herbs, and grasses.

In addition to their ecological importance, shola forests also have cultural and economic significance. They are used by local communities for a variety of purposes, including the collection of non-timber forest products, such as honey, herbs, and medicinal plants.

Importance of shola Forest

There are several important reasons for conserving shola forests, including:

  1. Biodiversity: Shola forests are home to a wide range of plant and animal species, many of which are threatened or endangered. The conservation of these forests helps to protect and preserve the diverse array of species that depend on them for survival.
  2. Ecosystem services: Shola forests provide a number of important ecosystem services, such as water regulation, soil conservation, and climate regulation. The conservation of these forests helps to maintain these vital ecosystem functions.
  3. Cultural and economic value: Shola forests have cultural and economic significance for local communities, who rely on them for the collection of non-timber forest products, such as honey, herbs, and medicinal plants. The conservation of these forests helps to support the livelihoods of these communities.
  4. Climate change: Shola forests play a role in mitigating the effects of climate change by sequestering carbon and helping to regulate the Earth’s climate. The conservation of these forests helps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
  5. Recreational value: Shola forests are also popular destinations for outdoor recreation, including hiking, birdwatching, and nature photography. The conservation of these forests helps to preserve these recreational opportunities for the enjoyment of future generations.

Distribution and habitat of Nilgiri Tahr

  • The Nilgiri tahr is exclusively found in India.
  • It lives in the open montane grassland ecosystem of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests.
  • At heights ranging from 1,200 to 2,600 m, the forests break into broad grasslands dotted with patches of stunted forests known locally as sholas.
  • At lower elevations, thick forests surround these grassland habitats.

Threats to Nilgiri tahr include

It is classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to the following threats:

  1. Habitat loss: The Nilgiri tahr’s habitat is being threatened by land development and the expansion of agricultural land, as well as by the logging of timber and the collection of firewood. These activities can fragment and degrade the tahr’s habitat, making it more difficult for the animals to survive.
  2. Poaching: Nilgiri tahrs are sometimes hunted illegally for their horns and other body parts, which can have a negative impact on the overall population.
  3. Climate change: Climate change is also a threat to the Nilgiri tahr, as it can alter the tahr’s habitat and the availability of food and water.
  4. Invasive species: The introduction of non-native plant species can also pose a threat to the Nilgiri tahr, as it can alter the tahr’s habitat and the availability of food.
  5. Livestock grazing, poaching, and landscape fragmentation.
national park in tamil nadu
national park in tamil nadu

Importance of Nilgiri Tahr Conservation

There are several important reasons for conserving the Nilgiri tahr, including:

  1. Biodiversity: The Nilgiri tahr is an important species in the ecosystem in which it lives, and its conservation helps to protect and preserve the diversity of plant and animal life in the Western Ghats.
  2. Ecosystem services: The Nilgiri tahr plays a role in the ecosystem, and its conservation helps to maintain the balance of the ecosystem in which it lives.
  3. Cultural and economic value: The Nilgiri tahr has cultural and economic significance for local communities in the Western Ghats, who rely on the tahr’s habitat for various purposes, such as the collection of non-timber forest products.
  4. Recreational value: The Nilgiri tahr is also a popular species for recreational activities, such as hiking and nature photography, and its conservation helps to preserve these recreational opportunities for the enjoyment of future generations.
  5. Genetic diversity: The conservation of the Nilgiri tahr helps to maintain the genetic diversity of the species, which is important for its long-term survival.

How to Protect Nilgiri Tahr

There are several ways in which the Nilgiri tahr can be protected and conserved, including:

  1. Establishing protected areas: One of the most effective ways to protect the Nilgiri tahr is to establish protected areas, such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, where the tahrs can live and breed without the threat of habitat loss or poaching.
  2. Implementing conservation programs: Conservation programs, such as habitat restoration, reforestation, and population monitoring, can help to protect and conserve the Nilgiri tahr.
  3. Enforcing laws: It is important to enforce laws that protect the Nilgiri tahr and its habitat, including laws that prohibit poaching and the destruction of habitat.
  4. Raising awareness: Raising awareness about the importance of the Nilgiri tahr and the threats it faces can help to garner support for conservation efforts.
  5. Providing funding: Adequate funding is necessary for the implementation of conservation programs and the protection of the Nilgiri tahr. Supporting organisations that work to protect and conserve the tahr is one way to contribute to these efforts.

In conclusion, India’s first project to conserve Nilgiri Tahr is an exciting step forward in the effort to protect endangered species. It is essential that government, nonprofit organisations, and individuals come together to ensure the success of this endeavour. Conservation efforts must include a comprehensive approach to habitat protection, connectivity between habitats, and management of threats posed by human activities. With the help of local communities and stakeholders, this project will be a major victory for wildlife conservation in India.

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