NILGIRI TAHR: IUCN: ENDANGERED
The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) known locally as the Nilgiri ibex or simply ibex, is an ungulate that is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern portion of the Western Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Southern India.
It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
The Nilgiri tahr is a stocky goat with short, coarse fur and a bristly mane.
Males are larger than females and of darker colour when mature.
Both sexes have curved horns, reaching up to 40 centimetres for males and 30 centimetres , for females.
Adult males develop a light grey area on their backs and are thus called “saddlebacks”.
The Nilgiri tahr inhabits the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats rain forests ecoregion.
At elevations from 1,200 to 2,600 metres (3,900 to 8,500 ft), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, locally known as sholas.
These grassland habitats are surrounded by dense forests at the lower elevations.
The Nilgiri tahrs formerly ranged over these grasslands in large herds, but hunting and poaching in the nineteenth century reduced their population.
The Nilgiri tahr symbolizes the conflicts inherent in conservation of threatened fauna and their habitat.
Nilgiri tahrs exist only in small, isolated populations due to extreme habitat fragmentation and illegal hunting.
They are, as a result, vulnerable to local extinction. The reasons for the decline of tahr populations have not been fully understood.
The species has always been under severe stress on account of the construction of numerous hydroelectric projects, timber felling and monoculture plantation of eucalyptus and wattles.
All these development activities, especially the plantation activities affect the heart of the tahr habitat, which are the grasslands – sholas.