Camera-trap study confirms Nilgiri Tahr presence in Chalakudy, Malayattoor divisions

Eighty-two Nilgiri Tahrs were recorded in the greater Parambikulam and Silent Valley landscapes from a total of 60,000 images captured and other field data.

PALAKKAD: The presence of the elusive Nilgiri Tahr has been documented authentically from the Chalakudy and Malayattoor forest divisions as camera traps were used for the first time to detect the endangered goat species.

Eighty-two Nilgiri Tahrs were recorded in the greater Parambikulam and Silent Valley landscapes from a total of 60,000 images captured and other field data. The maximum numbers were recorded from Makalmudi under the Mannarkad division, followed by Kurishumala of the Nenmara division. The Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, in association with the Silent Valley National Park, undertook the field study as part of the efforts to conserve the animal.

A total of 150 camera traps and close to 200 field staff were deployed in February in 50 blocks covering the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Nenmara Division, Chimmony Wildlife Sanctuary, Chalakudy Division, Vazhachal Division, Malayattoor Division, Silent Valley National Park, Mannarkad Division, Palakkad Division and Nilambur South Division.

The Nilgiri Tahr is an endemic mountain ungulate of the Western Ghats and the largest among the three Tahr species found in the world. It is considered a difficult species to observe and estimate due to its remote habitat preference -- covering daunting high-altitude cliffs and sheer slopes -- and a shy nature.
The Eravikulam National Park in Idukki is renowned the world over as the prime protected area in the conservation of this enigmatic goat.

"The study has helped to bring focused attention to the animal's lesser known haunts requiring conservation action," said Silent Valley National Park Wildlife Warden Samuel Pachuau, who was part of the month-long survey. "Poaching, conversion of grazing grounds to farmlands and competition from livestock have been the historic drivers for the decline in their numbers. The study has identified forest fires, cattle grazing, presence of weeds and anthropogenic disturbances as some of the current threats."

Since it was the breeding season, he said, the goats were wary of human disturbances and preferred to stay among steep rocky cliffs. "There were three pockets in the Silent valley with grasslands and these goats were visible," the wildlife warden said.