Glenmorgan Mountains and Thirukurungudi ranges selected

Nilgiri Tahr, the State animal of Tamil Nadu, is likely to be spotted again on the Glenmorgan Mountains in The Nilgiris and Thirukurungudi ranges in the Kalakad — Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR), both original habitats of the Tahr until it went out of sight some years ago.

Acting on the suggestion of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBW), the Ministry of Environment and Forests has written to the State Forest Department for the reintroduction of the Nilgiri Tahr in these two ranges, MoEF officials said.

It was A.J.T. Johnsing, former Director of Wildlife Institute of India, who suggested that the Tahr be first introduced in Glenmorgan Mountain from Mukuruthy National Park, a known habitat of the Tahr in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, and thereafter plan reintroduction in KMTR.

Both Thirukurungudi and Glenmorgan were original habitats of Nilgiri Tahr, say wildlife officials in the State.

In KMTR, Thiruvannamalai Mottai, Nandoothi Moottai and Panchamthangi Moottai were the three original habitats. Till 1995, the animal was sighted in these places. However, there are no direct sightings in any of these areas now and there are indications of its presence in Thiruvannamalai Mottai and officials believe a small population of Tahr could be still living there.

These areas have rocky patches and grass lands above them. In Thiruvannamalai Mottai area, northern and eastern portions were full of rocky patches and the southwest corner is covered by Shola forests. Hence, the place was once the ideal habitat for Tahrs, said a senior officer. Glenmorgan near Mukurthi National Park in The Nilgiris was also originally a Tahr habitat.

Later the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board took over some areas to construct quarters for their staff. This, and the regular forest fires in the area must have driven the Tahr population away from the habitat, says a former wildlife warden.

Now the quarters have been abandoned but a critical habitat study has to be done before translocating a sizeable number of Tahr from Mukurthi National Park to Glenmorgan, says the forest officer.

“After that, a pilot project has to be implemented. Only after the results of pilot project are known, the Tahr population should be reintroduced here. Otherwise, Glenmorgan could become another Munnar [in Kerala], where the Tahr population has lost its wild instincts,” he cautions.