Tamil Nadu launches dedicated project to conserve Nilgiri Tahr

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Chennai: Continue its conservation efforts, the Tamil Nadu government has come out with a dedicated  ‘Nilgiri Tahr project”  with the aim of conserving and restoring the original habitat and stabilising its population.

The project was launched on Wednesday, with budgetary support of Rs 25. 14 crores for Tamil Nadu’s state animal which once inhabited a large portion of the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats.

This five-year initiative will set up a dedicated team headed by a project director to deal with the conservation of the species.

It will explore the possibility of undertaking captive breeding of the animal for reintroduction in forest patches where it has become locally extinct.

The government in its order said, the state forest department will conduct synchronised surveys across the Tahr range, including at the Nilgiri hills and the Asambu highlands.

Radio-telemetry studies of a few Tahrs will be undertaken to understand movement patterns, habitat use and behavior.

Expressing happiness over this “exclusive” project Chief Minister MK Stalin, said it is an extremely proud movement for the state and assured that the state animal of Tamil Nadu is well protected and all efforts are taken for its conservation.

Supriya Sahu, additional chief secretary of the environment, forests and climate change department, said the initiative was conceived in line with Project Tiger and Project Elephant.

Calling it a “historic day” Sahu said that the project’s aim is to restore the fragmented habitat, especially Shola grasslands, and to reintroduce the Tahr population in its historic habitat.

Locally known as Varaiaadu, the Tahr has been an endangered species and protected under schedule-I of the Wildlife (protection) Act of India, 1972.

The animal is endemic to the Western Ghats, which are internationally recognised as a region of immense global importance due to its bio-diversity.

As per a Worldwide Fund for Nature Report 2015, there are 3,122 Tahrs in the wild. The species once inhabited a large portion of Western Ghats, but it now restricted to a few pockets.

This was because of habitat loss, biotic pressure, invasive and exotic species and the adverse impact of climate change.

The Nilgiri tahr is a sure-footed ungulate that inhabits the open montane grassland habitats at elevations from 1200 to 2600 m of the South Western Ghats.

Currently, the Nilgiri tahr distribution is along a narrow stretch of 400 km in the Western Ghats between Nilgiris in the north and Kanyakumari hills in the south of the region.

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