HABITAT SUITABILITY OF NILGIRI TAHR (NILGIRITRAGUS HYLOCRIUS) IN THE ERAVIKULAM NATIONAL PARK OF SOUTHERN WESTERN GHATS, KERALASabu Joseph, Jaison Jacob Varghese and Jobin Thomas
Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) - a highly endangered mammal of threatened species is endemic to southern Western Ghats, Kerala, where a suitable mosaic of montane grassland-shola complex and rugged terrain co-exist. The Eravikulam National Park- ENP (A=97 km2) of southern Western Ghats is the largest viable population of it in the world. Threefield studies were conducted in select hill ranges of ENP which showed a total of 118 tahr by sight counting. The habitat suitability of tahrs were observed. Out of these, greater number of tahr is seen in Naikolli malai compared to other hills. Topography and rainfall has a great role in their distribution as they prefer cliffy portion and steep slopes for their resting, and Naikkolli mala and Anaimudi are located towards the southernmost elevated part (>2200m) of ENP. The behavior of tahr, viz., their movements, habitat use, food habits etc. were observed. From previous reports and further field visits, plant species fed by these animals were identified and biochemical analysis of select plants were done to identify palatable plants.
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