Nilgiri tahr ( Nilgiritragus hylocrius,Ropiquet&Hassanin,2005)
Previously Hemitragus hylocrius,Ogilby, 1838
Generic name was changed to
Nilgiritragus to be in tune with the latest phylogenic research by Ropiquet and Hassanin.(Ropiquet and Hassanin, 2005
Nilgiri tahr was first named Kemas hylocrius by Ogilby (1838). In 1845
Gray re-christened the Nilgiri tahr as Capra warryato. This was
subsequently changed to Kemas warryato in 1852 (Lydekker, 1913). Warryato
is an English rendition of the Tamil term for the Nilgiri tahr. In 1859 Blyth
included the Nilgiri tahr in the genus Hemitragus, naming it H. hylocrius
(Lydekker, 1913).The current view is that there are three species of
Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), the Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus
hylocrius), and the Arabian tahr- (Arabitragus jayakari). There is
some variation in the spelling of the English name for this genus; it appears
both as "tahr" and "thar". Both are an Anglicized form of
the Nepali term for serow (Capricornis sumatraensis; Green, 1978). "tahr"
is now the accepted spelling for the Himalayan species, Nilgiri species
and the Arabian species. However, English speaking South Indians also use the
term "ibex" or "Nilgiri ibex". The Tamil name for Nilgiri
tahr is "varai ad" or "varai adoo" which translates to
"cliff goat". The comparable Malayalam term is "mala adu"
(Prater, 1965). Interestingly, Ogilby (1838) based the original name for Nilgiri
tahr, (Kemas hylocrius) on the understanding that it's local name was
"jungle sheep" (jungle or wood corresponding to the root "hyla"
and the Greek "krios" which means ram). However, in the English
speaking community in the High Range, "jungle sheep" refers to the
barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak), whereas "ibex" is the
longstanding name for Nilgiri tahr (Jerdon, 1874; Fletcher, 1911). Gray's (1842)
"warryato" is a much more appropriate name, but Ogilby's (1838)
remains as the standard one by rules of precedence( Rice 1984).
Nilgiri tahr is an endangered mountain ungulate listed in schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and considered as endangered by the IUCN. The species was assessed as endangered using the 1994 Red List Categories and Criteria as EN B1+2acd, C2a on 6/30/2000 (Assessors:CAMP Workshop, India). In the 2008 Redlist also the species was assessed as endangered.( Assessors:Alembath, M. & Rice, C.G, Evaluators Harris, R. & Festa-Bianchet, M. (Caprinae Red List Authority) ).
other two tahrs are, the Himalayan tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus, found from
Kashmir to Bhutan (Schaller, 1971) and the Arabian tahr Arabitragus jayakari, which is
confined to the mountain district
Synonyms of Nilgiri tahr
Kemas hylocrius (Ogilby, 1837)
Capra warrayato (Gray, 1842)
Kemas warrayato (Gray,1852)
Hemitragus hylocrius (Ogilby, 1838)
Tahr des monts Nilgiri ( French) Rice, 1990
Nilgiritahr(German) Rice, 1990
Intiantari ( Finnish)
The Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is the only species of Caprine ungulate that is found south of the Himalayas in India. The eleven other species of Indian Caprine ungulates are confined to the Himalayan biogeographical zones. The Nilgiri Tahr presently occurs patchily over a short 400km stretch of the southern Western Ghats that spans the high altitude plateau of the Nilgiris and the hills of the Kanyakumari district; the total area of which is a mere 5% of the entire Western Ghats region.
The reason for the
rather local distribution of the Tahr is its preference for a habitat that is
predominantly of grasslands adequately sheltered by steep rocky cliffs; a unique
habitat type that has rightly given the species the local name Varai Aadu
(= Cliff Goat). These grasslands receive not less than 1500mm of rainfall
annually and enjoy a short dry season and as such are restricted to just 7 high
altitude landscapes (1200-2600m ASL) in the southern Western Ghats.
Having been exterminated from the northernmost Tahr landscape, the high altitude grasslands of southwestern Karnataka during the past 50 years, the Tahr is at present found only within 6 high altitude landscapes. And within these 6 landscapes, 18 localities have sustained small to large populations that vary in size between 20 and 550 animals. Estimates made at various times during the past 30 years placed the population size of the Nilgiri Tahr between 2000 and 2500 over its entire range.
It is evident that the Nilgiri Tahr had reached the brink of extinction sometime during the latter half of the 19th century. Early interventions by the erstwhile Nilgiri Game Association and High Range Game Association and modern conservation initiatives guided by the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 have aided a rather dramatic comeback of the species in less than 150 years.