The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday launched an initiative for the conservation of the Nilgiri Tahr, the State animal, at a cost of ₹25.14 crore.
Under The Nilgiri Tahr project, the government plans to develop a better understanding of the Nilgiri Tahr population through surveys and radio telemetry studies; reintroduce the Tahrs to their historical habitat; address proximate threats; and increase public awareness of the species. The project is to be implemented from 2022 to 2027.
Furthermore, October 7 will be celebrated as ‘Niligiri Tahr Day’ in honour of E.R.C. Davidar, who was responsible for pioneering one of the first studies of the species in 1975.
In an order, Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Climate Change and Forest, said some of the challenges in the conservation of the Nilgiri Tahrs are potential local extinction due to highly fragmented populations; invasion of exotic species into the habitat; forest fires; over-exploitation of forest resources; and lack of ecological data and understanding.
According to the order, there are multiple references to the Nilgiri Tahr in Tamil Sangam literature dating back to 2,000 years. The late Mesolithic (10,000-4,000 BC) paintings highlight the significance of the Tahr in folklore, culture and life. It was designated as the State animal in recognition of its ecological and cultural significance.
It is an endangered species and the sole Caprinae species found in the tropical mountains of southern India. The animal inhabits meadows with steep cliffs at elevations between 300 metres and 2,600 metre above sea level. It is estimated that there are 3,122 Nilgiri Tahrs in the wild. Historically, the Nilgiri Tahr was known to inhabit a large portion of the Western Ghats. But today it remains restricted to a few scattered patches in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It has become locally extinct in around 14% of its traditional shola forest-grassland habitat.
The funds for the project are to be provided by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. The project will be headed by a Project Director, who will be assisted by an Assistant Director. The team will include senior scientists, research fellows and field staff, according to the order.