The number of Nilgiri Tahr – an endangered mountain goat – is found to have increased at the Eravikulam National Park in the Munnar Wildlife Division in Idukki district, the latest census has revealed. This comes as a positive development given that the numbers of the Nilgiri Tahr have dwindled over the years due to shrinking of their natural habitat and poaching.
This year, in a census conducted between April 21 and 25, 111 Nilgiri Tahr kids were counted in Eravikulam National Park, which is spread along the Western Ghats and is the natural habitat for the mountain goats. This year's numbers are an increase from the last few years’, where the population of newborn Tahrs would be around 70-78. Last year, the number of newborn Nilgiri Tahrs during the calving season was 81; and it was 75 and 87 in 2018 and 2017 respectively.
The Forest Department officials told TNM that this year, the lack of excess rains helped with better visibility and aided counting the animals as well. “Usually, the census is done in May. In the past two years, rains played spoilsport and there was no visibility. We even had to postpone the census a few times as the mist affected the visibility in the past few years,” Munnar Wildlife Warden Lakshmi tells TNM.
She adds that unlike previous years, when some non-governmental organisations conducted the census, this year it was done by Forest Department guards who are mostly from the tribal settlements in the area. Their personal familiarity with the region and its animals also helped in getting in making the census robust, she says.
Lakshmi refutes reports attributing the increase in Nilgiri Tahr population to undisturbed lockdown environment. “The increase in the number is fairly good this year. Even on the normal days, when there is no lockdown, the visitors are allowed in the Rajamala region only. No tourists are allowed in the rest of Eravikulam. Hence the lockdown doesn’t have much impact on the entire region.”
The Rajamala region is spread across one and half square kilometers of the national park only. There is an increase this year in the number of Nilgiri Tahrs found in Rajamala too, Lakshmi says.