Tamil Nadu, Kerala to join hands to count endangered Nilgiri tahr
Tamil Nadu is currently working on a standardized technique to count the endangered population of the only mountain ungulate in southern India after launching Project Nilgiri Tahr last year for the conservation of the State animal. Since the species is only present in a few habitats in the two States, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department would also suggest to its Kerala counterpart that a synchronized census be conducted.
What is the Project Nilgiri Tahr?
- The government of Tamil Nadu launched Project Nilgiri Tahr, a five-year program, to protect the Nilgiri Tahr, the state animal. The project’s objectives are to:
- Restore the ecosystem’s fragmentation, particularly in the Shola grasslands, where the Tahr thrives.
- the Tahr population back into its former environment
- Develop a better understanding of the Nilgiri Tahr population through surveys and radio telemetry investigations. Ensure that suitable rehabilitation facilities are offered.
- Deal with immediate threats
- Educate the public about the species
- The project’s budget is 25.14 crore rupees
What do we know about the Nilgiri Tahr?
- The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is a critically endangered mountain goat.
- It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu and the sole mountain ungulate in southern India.
- The Nilgiri tahr is a stocky goat with brown colouring and a bristly mane. It also has short, coarse fur.
- The males have a darker colour and are bigger than the females.
- The wide montane grasslands of the Western Ghats’ upper elevations, including the Nilgiris, the Anamallais, and the Nelliampathies, are home to the Nilgiri tahr. The species is unique to the southern Western Ghats, which are located in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Nilgiri tahr, which was once present over the entire length of the Western Ghats, is now only scattered in tiny areas.
- In comparison to ibex and wild goats of the family Capra, the Nilgiri tahr is more closely related to sheep of the species Ovis.
- Females can have two pregnancies in a single year.
- There may only be 3,122 Nilgiri tahr, according to a 2015 World Wildlife Fund for Nature assessment.
- The Nilgiri tahr population at Eravikulam National Park (ENP) has increased, though. The park saw 803 tahrs observed during the annual census in April, up from 785 the year before.
Why is the Nilgiri Tahr endangered in India?
- The Western Ghats are home to the critically endangered Nilgiri Tahr, a mountain ungulate. The Nilgiri Tahr is most at risk from:
- habitat destruction brought on by hydroelectric projects, monoculture plantations, and deforestation
- disruption brought on by invasive species
- Overgrazing of domesticated animals
- Unlawful hunting
- Changing weather
- Although the Nilgiri Tahr is completely protected in India, poaching is still a concern. The population has increased from about 1,000 in 1970 to about 2,600 in 2010 thanks to conservation measures.
- The Nilgiri Tahr can be protected through conservation initiatives like habitat restoration, replanting, and population monitoring.
- Threats to the habitat include wattles, pines, and eucalyptus in the grasslands, which pose a threat to the Nilgiri tahr. The tahr’s natural habitat may be disturbed by these exotic plants.
- Project Nilgiri Tahr has a component that looks at the causes and potential treatments for the lumpy skin illness that has been observed in the Nilgiri Tahr. The species is worried about this sickness.
What is the purpose of the survey for Nilgiri Tahr?
- Standardized Population Count: The Tamil Nadu Forest Department is striving to create a uniform procedure to count the critically endangered Nilgiri tahr population. The monitoring and preservation of the species depend on this.
- Synchronized Census: Tamil Nadu is recommending to Kerala that synchronized censuses be conducted. A reliable population estimate for the Nilgiri tahr would be provided by a synchronized count because it is only found in certain habitats in both states.
- Drone Use: For the first time, drones may be utilized for the census. Since the Nilgiri tahr lives in montane meadows with rocky, steep terrain at high altitudes, conventional counting techniques are difficult. Effective surveys of these areas can be assisted by drones.
- Time of the Proposed Census: The proposed censuses are scheduled for November, following the Southwest Monsoon, and March or April, following the calving season. These times were selected to catch the population at various stages.
- Survey Methods: Bounded count and double-observer survey methods, combined with camera traps in difficult terrain, may be used during the census. These techniques aid in ensuring precise population estimations.
Overall, Project Nilgiri Tahr is an important conservation effort aimed at protecting the endangered Nilgiri tahr and preserving its habitat in the Western Ghats region of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.