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Tamil Nadu launches project to protect Nilgiri Tahr, its State Animal

Tamil Nadu has embarked on a project to protect and preserve its State animal, the Nilgiri Tahr (Pic. Courtesy CMOTamilnadu)

With the aim of protecting its state animal – the Nilgiri Tahr –Tamil Nadu Government has embarked on an ambitious project aiming to restore the original habitat of this stocky goat and stabilising its numbers. This animal, which found only in India, is mentioned in the Sangam literature also that was produced from 1st to 4th Century CE.

The project will include synchronised surveys by the State Forest Department across the Tahr range which covers the Nilgiri hills and the Asambu highlands. In order to comprehend the behaviour, movement patterns and habitat use of these creatures, radio-telemetry studies will also be conducted.

Further, the project will also explore the possibility of undertaking captive breeding of Nilgiri Tahr to enable its reintroduction in those patches of forest where they have become extinct.  This has not been tried before since Tahr is highly sensitive to human touch.

Removal of invasive species that have taken over shola-grasslands, habitat of the animal, has also been started. Nilgiri Tahr are protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1975.

The 2015 report published by the Worldwide Fund for Nature has stated that there are 3,122 Nilgiri Tahrs in the wild. Earlier the species was found in large numbers in a vast portion of the Western Ghats but over a period of time they are now restricted to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In the past few decades, it has locally become extinct in around 14% of its traditional habitat.

According to Supriya Sahu, the Additional Chief Secretary of the Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Tahr population is not on a steep decline but its habitat is getting fragmented. Being confined to a limited area could result in lower immunity, higher infant mortality and inbreeding.

Also, every October 7 the Nilgiri Tahr Day will be celebrated.

For this five-year initiative, a sum of Rs.25.14 crore has been allocated and it will be headed by a director.