A comprehensive census of the animal held in the sanctuary

There has been a considerable increase in the population of the Nilgiri Tahr in Grizzled Giant Squirrel sanctuary in Srivilliputhur, revealed a recently concluded census.

Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Conservator of Forests, Virudhunagar district, told The Hindu that the previous census data revealed the presence of 120 Nilgiri Tahr in the sanctuary. But in the current census, through direct sighting itself the participants recorded the Tahr population at 150 and another 70 was recorded through indirect sighting – pellets and pug marks.

The four-day census was conducted at the higher altitudes in the sanctuary, which began on June 17. On the inaugural day, a training programme for participants was conducted in which the officials explained how to conduct the census. The remaining three days the participants camped in high altitude areas in Saptur, Watrap, Rajapalayam and Srivilliputhur Ranges to carry out the census.

Dr. Niraj said the participants stayed in high altitude areas, ranging between 3,500 ft and 6,000 ft. above the mean sea level. This is the first time a comprehensive and simultaneous census of the Nilgiri Tahr is conducted in the sanctuary area.

The department had identified 23 potential peaks in the Virudhunagar Forest division, where the census was conducted.

Participants were divided into 23 groups and they stayed in the high altitude areas, where the Forest Department set up camps. The groups used Global Positioning System for temporal and special mapping of the entire Tahr habitat.

Apart from Tahr the participants recorded the presence of leopard, Indian bison, elephant and sloth bear in such an elevation. While the presence of leopard, Indian bison and elephant were recorded through indirect sighting such as scat, pug marks and dung, they actually encountered the bear in many places, Dr. Niraj said.

Besides Forest Department officials, members of Wildlife Association of Rajapalayam, World Wide Fund for Nature (India) and police personnel from the Special Task Force participated in the census.