Survival rate of Nilgiri tahr highest at Rajamala

Recent census in Munnar puts its population at 1,039

April 29, 2022 05:19 pm | Updated 05:55 pm IST - IDUKKI

The survival rate of newly born Nilgiri tahrs (up to one year) is found to be the highest at Rajamala in the Eravikulam National Park (ENP) than in other isolated natural habitats such as Pothady, Njandalmala, Kambakallu, Kundala, Sankumala, Meesapulimala, Silent Valley, Chokkanadumala, Muhanmudi and Varayattumudi in Munnar.

As per an elaborate census of Nilgiri tahr conducted in Munnar from April 18 to 23, its population is 1,039, including 157 newborns. In the past two years, the survey was limited only to the ENP due to COVID-19.

Job J. Neriamparambil, assistant wildlife warden, ENP, told The Hindu that the average survival rate of Nilgir tahr at Rajamala, inside the ENP, is 15% to 18%, while it is 4% in isolated habitats in the larger Munnar landscape.

He attributes this to the presence of humans and vehicular movement at Rajamala as the number of calves falling prey to predators such as tigers, leopards and wild jackals is less.

Mr. Neriamparambil says the average count of Nilgiri tahrs has been almost stable for over a decade, adding that it is a “healthy” population. “If its population steadily increases, there is a chance of them moving outside the natural habitat, which may result in its losing its wild nature. The grasslands in its natural habitat may not be enough to accommodate more of the species and this could result in the mammal losing its balanced growth in a natural habitat,’‘ he says.

The population of Nilgiri tahrs inside the ENP is 785. The first elaborate census of the species was taken in Kerala in 2015-17. From then, the census has extended to the entire Munnar landscape.

Mr. Neriamparambil says more accurate data are available now as modern devices are used for the survey. Unlike predator animals, Nilgiri tahr stays in its natural habitat, which is often atop rocky hills. The isolated habitats, though small in size in Munnar, are also its exclusive living areas. A healthy and balanced growth of Nilgiri tahr needs hilly grasslands to accommodate them even in small isolated habitats, he says, adding that incidents of poaching are rather nil now.

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