‘Nilgiri tahr numbers are stable’

Ravi Singh was in city to meet Chief Minister

November 12, 2021 01:12 am | Updated 01:13 am IST - CHENNAI

A delegation of WWF India, led by Ravi Singh, calling on Chief Minister M.K. Stalin in Chennai on Thursday.

A delegation of WWF India, led by Ravi Singh, calling on Chief Minister M.K. Stalin in Chennai on Thursday.

The numbers of the Nilgiri tahr, the State animal of Tamil Nadu, are stable and are rising. “They haven’t increased all of a sudden. They are preyed upon by tigers and leopards,” said Ravi Singh, general secretary and CEO of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - India.

The organisation has done three surveys in the past 15 years and the numbers from the latest one are being checked.

Mr. Singh was in the city to meet Chief Minister M. K. Stalin and present to him the work being done by WWF in the State. He was accompanied by WWF’s ambassador for environment education and Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, its philanthropy ambassador Madhura Visweswaran, its directors Radhika Suri, Ritika Bhalla Whig and its vice-president N. Kumar.

“Our environment education programme is over 50 years old and through these years we have worked with thousands of schools and teachers. We have seen that if you really talk about the environment to students — how it was, what are the values, what it gives, then conservation will automatically come. Children now want to learn more and more. The number of questions they ask us has increased, and their quality has improved over the years,” he said.

Speaking to The Hindu over phone after the meeting, Mr. Singh said the organisation was refocussing on existing projects including those involving elephants.

Asked as to how human-elephant conflicts could be reduced, he said their habitat was shrinking as were their migratory areas. Elephant populations were isolated in some places. When they migrated there were bound to be conflicts.

“Because of India’s heritage, culture and traditions our elephant population has been stable in the last 10 years. Maybe, we have had a a rise of 2-3%. We have managed to keep the elephants and elephant areas. Where they are threatened is where they have been isolated, forests have disappeared, their corridors are shrunk,” he added.

To prevent conflicts with elephants, Mr. Singh said there was a need to give them space to migrate and wander. “The government is conscious of this but the issue is how to make it happen with all the development pressures we have,” he said.

He also raised concerns over the change in nature of grasslands and grasses because of invasive species and that was affecting the fodder of herbivores including elephants. “If they don’t find proper fodder they keep migrating,” he said.

Invasive species from some of these grazing lands, which are critical, have to be uprooted by hand and it will take one or two seasons for the indigenous species to come back.

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