The Nilgiri Tahr is a mountain goat. It is easy to identify because of its horns, which curve backward from its head. Its Tamil name is Varaiaadu. It is also known as the Alpine Ibex.
This animal is found only in a small stretch of the southern Western Ghats, mostly in the Nilgiris, which is how it got its most common name. It is an endangered species, and although it is difficult to get exact figures, only around 2500 Tahr are believed to exist in the wild. Actually, that’s good news, because at one time it was on the point of becoming extinct.
The Nilgiri Tahr are sure-footed animals. They can climb the most rocky and steep cliffs. When they are threatened by predators like panthers or by humans, they quickly climb up the mountains and balance themselves on precipices where their attackers cannot reach them.
The Nilgiri Tahr move about in herds, and feed mainly on the shola forests found only in the Western Ghats. They are greyish-brown in colour. Older males have a silvery patch on their backs, making them look as if they’re wearing saddles, and so they’re called saddlebacks.
Hunting and poaching had reduced the numbers of this species alarmingly. Tea planters and others who were interested in conservation took steps to stop the killing of these unique animals early in the 1900s. Now, people are conscious of the need to save these mountain goats.
The Nilgiri Thar is the emblem of Munnar, a town known for tea plantations and scenic beauty. The nearby Eravikulam National Park has herds of Nilgiri Tahr. They’re usually shy and hard to spot, but in the Rajamalai area, for some reason, the Tahr allow people to get close and even stroke them.
She no longer collects garbage from roadside bins and dumps but works in an apartment complex. Earlier, people would cover their noses and hurry away when they saw garbage collectors, but now they get more respect.
Other cities in India and even other countries are impressed, and have sent representatives to see how things are being done. In fact, Suman has addressed the International Labour Conference at Geneva, and delegates from 185 countries listened to her experiences with full attention. What a proud moment for Suman, and for India too!