Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
Endemic to the Western Ghats, the Nilgiri Tahr battles habitat destruction and hunting in order to survive. Many herds have got habituated to people, adding to their existing threats.
The Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is an endangered ungulate found on remote mountain slopes in the southern Western Ghats. Found in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, their current range has been greatly reduced to a mere 400 kilometers. These animals are found among the rocky cliffs of montane grasslands, and it is estimated that around 3000 individuals are distributed evenly between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Eravikulam National Park and the grassy slopes of the Anamalai hills are the only locations that have populations of more than 300 individuals.
Although consistent conservation efforts have been at play for many years, the problem of habitat destruction continues to cause great peril for the survival of this species. Recently the problem has intensified due to the construction of a viewpoint by the Forest Department along SH78, a major highway connecting the town of Pollachi and the plantation town of Valparai, which traverses through critical tahr habitat. Tahr are often spotted between the 5th and 11th hairpin bend, and this viewpoint at the 9th hairpin bend is meant to facilitate easy viewing from tourist vehicles. Thronging tourists bring along with them mountains of litter, causing the tahrs to ingest plastic and other materials while grazing these slopes. This is worrisome, as the odds against the tahrs are already great. A few concerned nature lovers plan on organising a clean-up in the area. Such efforts will only prove to be fruitful if they have the cooperation of the forest department and visiting tourists.