The state animal of Tamil Nadu, the NilgiriTahr (Nilgiritragushylocrius) known locally as the Nilgiri ibex or simply ibex, is an ungulate endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern Western Ghats.
My earliest introduction to the NilgiriTahr was through a book cover with the ungulate on its cover. It was a dry, summer afternoon in Chennai, India, when this goat amidst the mist was staring back at me from a book cover on Amazon. A book called The Toda and the Tahr byMr.E R C Davidar. The cover acted as the spark that instigated my interest in the NilgiriTahr.
The state animal of Tamil Nadu, the Tahr was found predominantly only in three parts in southern India. One of these regions was Eravikulam Park, Munnar. That December we packed our bags to photograph this shy animal, which lives only at a particular altitude. The moments which followed post the rather tiring trek, up the slope of the Rajamalai were quite magical and enchanting.
While their relatives are hunted in other parts of the world, for sport, the Nilgiritahr exists in small, isolated pockets of fragmented population; and as a result, are vulnerable to local extinction. Yet the forest departments of Kerala and Tamilnadu, India, have done their best to ensure their existence. They were curious and brave animals which came to very close quarters of the visitors.
Stocky goats with rather short and coarse fur and a bristly mane, the maletahr is larger than the female. Both sexes have curved horns, and have a light grey area or “saddle” on their backs when they reach adulthood, hence called “saddlebacks”. The NilgiriTahr is listed as “Endangered” in the IUCN Redlist.