Nilgiri tahr

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Nilgiri tahr
A courting male in Eravikulam NP AJTJohnsingh DSCN2997.jpg
Male (left)
Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) female.jpg
Female in Eravikulam National Park
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Tribe: Caprini
Genus: Nilgiritragus
Ropiquet & Hassanin, 2005
N. hylocrius
Binomial name
Nilgiritragus hylocrius
(Ogilby, 1838)
Distribution of Nilgiri tahr

Hemitragus hylocrius

The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is an ungulate that is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern portion of the Western and Eastern Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in southern India. It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu. [2] Despite its local name, it is more closely related to the sheep of the genus Ovis than the ibex and wild goats of the genus Capra . It is the only species in the genus Nilgiritragus.



In Tamil, the Nilgiri tahr is called வரையாடு (varaiaadu). The word varaiaadu is derived from the Tamil words wurrai meaning "precipice" and aadu meaning "goat". The word in ancient Tamil was வருடை (varudai). In Malayalam, the word is വരയാട് (varyaadu). [2] The Nilgiri tahr was described as Capra warryato by Gray. [3]

The genus name Nilgiritragus is derived from the Tamil word Neelagiri meaning "blue hills" and the Greek word trágos meaning "goat". [4] [5]


Results of a phylogenetic analysis showed that the Nilgiri tahr forms a sister group with the genus Ovis and has been placed into the monotypic genus Nilgiritragus in 2005. It used to be placed in the genus Hemitragus together with the Himalayan tahr (H. jemlahicus) and the Arabian tahr (Arabitragus jayakari), which are both closer associated with the genus Capra . [6]


Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) juvenile.jpg
Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) female head.jpg

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 cm (16 in) for males and 30 cm (12 in) for females. Adult males weigh 80 to 100 kg (180 to 220 lb) and stand about 100 cm (39 in) tall at the shoulder. Adult males develop a light grey area on their backs, thus are called "saddlebacks". [2]

Distribution and habitat

The Nilgiri tahr can be found only in India. It inhabits the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests ecoregion. At elevations from 1,200 to 2,600 m (3,900 to 8,500 ft), the forests open into large 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 19th century reduced their population. [1]


The Nilgiri tahr is primarily threatened by habitat loss and disturbance caused by invasive species, and in some sites by livestock grazing, poaching and fragmentation of the landscape. [1]


As few as 100 Nilgiri tahrs were left in the wild by the end of 20th century. Since that time, their numbers have increased somewhat; in a comprehensive study of the Nilgiri tahr population in Western Ghats, the WWF-India has put the population at 3,122. [7] Their range extends over 400 km (250 mi) from north to south, and Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population. Per the wildlife census conducted by Kerala forest department in association with volunteers from College of Forestry and Veterinary Science under Kerala Agricultural University, from April 24–28, 2014, the number of animals in Eravikulam National Park has increased to 894 individuals. This is the highest ever count recorded in the national park, with the first census in 1996 finding only 640 tahrs. [8] The other significant concentration is in the Nilgiri Hills, with smaller populations in the Anamalai Hills, Periyar National Park, Palani Hills, and other pockets in the Western Ghats south of Eravikulam, almost to India's southern tip. A small population of tahrs numbering around 200 is known to inhabit the Boothapandi, Azhakiyapandipuram, Velimalai, Kulasekaram, and Kaliyal Ranges in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu [9] and another small herd of less than 30 animals is known to inhibit Ponmudi Hills in Trivandrum district of Kerala. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tahr</span>

Tahrs or tehrs are large artiodactyl ungulates related to goats and sheep. There are three species, all native to Asia. Previously thought to be closely related to each other and placed in a single genus, Hemitragus, genetic studies have since proven that they are not so closely related and they are now considered as members of three separate monotypic genera: Hemitragus is now reserved for the Himalayan tahr, Nilgiritragus for the Nilgiri tahr, and Arabitragus for the Arabian tahr.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Munnar</span> Hill station in Kerala, India

Munnar is a town and hill station in the Idukki district of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. Munnar is situated at around 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above mean sea level, in the Western Ghats mountain range. Munnar is also called the "Kashmir of South India" and is a popular honeymoon destination.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Idukki district</span> District in Kerala, India

Idukki (ഇടുക്കി), IPA: [iɖukːi], is one of the 14 districts in the Indian state of Kerala. Idukki district lies amid the Cardamom Hills of Western Ghats in Kerala. Idukki district contains two municipal towns - Kattappana and Thodupuzha. The district currently includes five taluks in it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Western Ghats montane rain forests</span> Ecoregion in South India

The South Western Ghats montane rain forests is an ecoregion in South India, covering the southern portion of the Western Ghats in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu at elevations from 1,000 to 2,695 m. Annual rainfall in this ecoregion exceeds 2,800 mm (110 in).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shola</span> Patch of stunted tropical montane forest in South India

Sholas are the local name for patches of stunted tropical montane forest found in valleys amid rolling grassland in the higher montane regions of South India, largely in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. These patches of shola forest are found mainly in the valleys and are usually separated from one another by undulating montane grassland. The shola and grassland together form the shola-grassland complex or mosaic. Not all such high-elevation grasslands have sholas in their valleys, especially if they are isolated from other such meadows, such as the meadows found in the Idamalayar Reserve Forest in Ernakulam district of Kerala. The word 'Shola' is probably derived from the Tamil language word cõlai (சோலை) meaning grove.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anamudi</span> Mountain

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thekkady</span> Hill station in Kerala, India

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cardamom Hills</span> Mountain range in Kerala, India

The Cardamom Hills or Yela Mala are mountain range of southern India and part of the southern Western Ghats located in Idukki district, Kerala, India. Their name comes from the cardamom spice grown in much of the hills' cool elevation, which also supports pepper and coffee. The Western Ghats and Periyar Sub-Cluster including the Cardamom Hills are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The term Malabar rainforests refers to one or more distinct ecoregions recognized by biogeographers:

  1. the Malabar Coast moist forests formerly occupied the coastal zone to the 250 metre elevation
  2. the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests grow at intermediate elevations
  3. the South Western Ghats montane rain forests cover the areas above 1000 metres elevation
<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eravikulam National Park</span> National park in India

Eravikulam National Park is a 97 km2 national park located along the Western Ghats in the Idukki and Ernakulam districts of Kerala in India. The park is situated between 10º05'N and 10º20' north, and 77º0' and 77º10' east and is the first national park in Kerala. It was established in 1978.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nilgiri Mountains</span> Mountain range in Tamil Nadu, India

The Nilgiri Mountains form part of the Western Ghats in northwestern Tamil Nadu, Southern Karnataka, and eastern Kerala in India. They are located at the trijunction of three states and connect the Western Ghats with the Eastern Ghats. At least 24 of the Nilgiri Mountains' peaks are above 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), the highest peak being Doddabetta, at 2,637 metres (8,652 ft).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary</span> Wildlife sanctuary in South India

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kurinjimala Sanctuary</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pampadum Shola National Park</span> National park in India

Pampadum Shola National Park is the smallest national park in Idukki district of Kerala in India. It is on the border with Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. The park is administered by the Kerala Department of Forests and Wildlife, Munnar Wildlife Division, together with the nearby Mathikettan Shola National Park, Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi Shola National Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kurinjimala Sanctuary. The park adjoins the Allinagaram Reserved Forest within the proposed Palani Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park.It is a part of Palani hills stretched up to Vandaravu peak. The Westerns Ghats, Anamalai Sub-Cluster, including these parks, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vattavada</span> Village in Kerala, India

Vattavada is a village in Idukki district in the state of Kerala, bordering Tamil Nadu, India.

Karian Shola National Park is a protected area in the Western Ghats, India, nominated as a national park in 1989. The Western Ghats are a chain of mountains running down the west of India parallel with the coast some 30 to 50 km inland. They are not true mountains, but the edge of a fault that resulted about 150 million years ago as the subcontinent of India split from Gondwanaland. They are older than the Himalayan mountain range and are clothed in ancient forests. They influence the weather in India as they intercept the incoming monsoon storm systems. The greatest rainfall occurs between June and September during the southwest monsoon, with lesser amounts falling in the northeast monsoon between October and November. The Western Ghats are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are considered to be one of the eight most important "hotspots" of biological diversity in the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New Amarambalam Reserved Forest</span>

New Amarambalam reserved forest is a reserved forest in the Western Ghats, situated in the Malappuram District of Kerala state of India. It extends till Silent Valley National Park of the Palakkad District to the south and to Nadugani in the Nilgiri District of Tamil Nadu to the North. It is under the Karimpuzha Wildlife Sanctuary.

Edamalakkudy or Idamalakkudy is a remote tribal village and gram panchayat between the Idamalayar Reserve Forest and Mankulam Forest Division of the Anamalai hills in the Idukki district of the Kerala state of India.


  1. 1 2 3 Alempath, M.; Rice, C. (2008). "Nilgiritragus hylocrius". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2008: e.T9917A13026736. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T9917A13026736.en . Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. 1 2 3 Prater, S. H. 1948, 1971. The book of Indian Animals, Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, India. 324 pages. ISBN   0195621697.
  3. Hamilton, General Douglas (1892). Hamilton, Edward (ed.). Records of sport in southern India chiefly on the Annamullay, Nielgherry and Pulney mountains, also including notes on Singapore, Java and Labuan, from journals written between 1844 and 1870. London: R. H. Porter. pp.  284. OCLC   4008435.
  4. Lengerke, Hans J. von (1977). The Nilgiris: Weather and Climate of a Mountain Area in South India. Steiner. p. 5. ISBN   9783515026406.
  5. Liddell, H. G.; Scott, R. (1940). "τράγος". A Greek–English Lexicon (Ninth ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  6. Ropiquet, A. & Hassanin, A. (2005). "Molecular evidence for the polyphyly of the genus Hemitragus (Mammalia, Bovidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 36 (1): 154–168. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.01.002. PMID   15904863.
  7. "Nilgiri tahr population over 3,000: WWF-India". The Hindu. 3 October 2015.
  8. "Munnar Hill Station". Kerala Tourism. Archived from the original on 18 January 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  9. "Bonnet Macaque tops in wildlife survey in Kanyakumari district"
  10. "Squeezing Life out of Ponmudi"

Further reading