AimThe status of the Nilgiri Tahr in small isolated populations is not well known. Recent surveys have indicated loss of several small populations in Kerala. We undertook this study in the southern Western Ghats south of the Shencottah gap to assess its status and population size.
MethodsA ten month survey was conducted over two dry seasons,from January-June 2012 and 2013. January.Site selection was based on literature survey, discussions with elderly shikaris and cattle herdsmen familiar with populations over the past 50-years, The methodology followed was direct counts of herds from vantage points and trails. Herd size,sex and age classes, following Rice (1984) and the geographic coordinates were noted along with habitat features.
ResultsA total of 25 sites were surveyed and 236 individuals were recorded. Tahr were recorded in six sites where they had presumably disappeared according to local informants. Three new sites were identified. There were no indications of Tahr presence in five sites, and they could presumably be extinct in these sites. Only 2 populations were found to have more than 50 individuals, and the majority (76% of sites) had fewer than 10 individuals .
ConservationThis study questions the population viability of such small fragmented populations including possible reasons for the decline of its numbers .This highlights the need for exploration on habits, home range, migration(if any),dispersal and new methods to study how habitats influence habits in fragmented populations. Hence a conservation plan is a must in these lesser known landscapes, as some populations are more vulnerable based on different protection status.