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The Nilgiri Tahr, endemic to Western Ghats

The Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered species of mountain goats, indigenous to the Western Ghats is shown here. ‘Varayadu’, in Malayalam language, and Nilgiri Ibex are the other names by which Nilgiri Tahr is known.

Adding rich beauty to Kerala fauna, the Nilgiri Tahr belongs to the Bovidae family of Mammalia class. Hemitragus Hylocrius is the zoological name given to it. The red list of IUCN has classified this species in the ‘endangered’ section of threatened animals.

The Nilgiri Tahrs are living in the slope areas of Western Ghats. In the highest portion of Anamudi too they are found. Being a mountain goat, which is equally related to both sheep and goat, ‘Varayadu’ easily climbs on very steep mountain parts too.

They are short in appearance. The male goat can be identified from its superior size compared with the female. Two curved horns are present in both the sexes. An average adult male weighs between 80 to 100 kilograms with a height of 100 centimetres.

The male called ‘saddleback’ is almost black, and is far heavier and stockier than the female. The white carpal patches on the front and outside of the forelegs, the silvery saddle patch on the loins and the white facial stripe which drops from the forehead towards the corners of the mouth, clearly distinguishes the buck from does and juveniles. The female is yellowish or grayish brown with a white belly. They move in groups, nursing and nurturing their offspring.

The sholas of Western Ghats surrounded by thick forests and grasslands are the natural habitat of Ibex. They feed on grasses and leaves.

At present, the total number of Nilgiri Tahrs is believed to be 2000 with a major population in the Eravikulam National Park at Munnar in Idukki district, which is a declared protected area for ‘Varayadu’. The hunting and encroachment into its habitat by humans are the key factors which make them threatened.