Nilgiritragus hylocrius 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Nilgiritragus hylocrius (Ogilby, 1838)
Common Name(s):
English Nilgiri Tahr
Hemitragus hylocrius (Ogilby, 1838)
Taxonomic Notes: We follow Ropiquet and Hassanin (2005) in removing this species from the genus Hemitragus, and placing it in the monotypic genus Nilgiritragus, based on analyses of four molecular markers. No subspecies are recognized.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Alempath, M. & Rice, C.
Reviewer(s): Harris, R. & Festa-Bianchet, M. (Caprinae Red List Authority)
Contributor(s): Daniels, R.
Listed as Endangered because its population size is estimated to number fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, there is an observed continuing decline in the number of mature individuals, and no subpopulation contains more than 250 mature individuals.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The present distribution of the Nilgiri tahr is limited to approximately 5% of the Western Ghats in southern India, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in southern India (Shackleton, 1997; Grubb, 2005), although not along the border between these two states (M. Alembath pers. comm. 2007). At the beginning of this century the range of tahr probably extended northward at least to the Brahmagiri hills of southern Karnataka (Shackleton, 1997). The animals are more or less confined to altitudes of 1,200 to 2,600 meters (Nilgiri Tahr Trust); populations as low as 900 m may or may not represent pre-human extent of occurrence in elevation (Rice, 1984).
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):1200
Upper elevation limit (metres):2600
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Total numbers were estimated at between 2,000 and 2,500 individuals in the 1970s-1980s, and were thought to be stable (Davidar, 1978; Rice, 1988a, 1990). More recently Daniels et al. (2008) estimated the total population at no more than 1,800-2,000 individuals. An overall decline in the species was suggested by Daniels et al. (2008), although some populations appear to have remained stable in recent decades (Mishra and Johnsingh 1998). The species current populations are estimated to be Nilgiri hills (450, though now reduced to 75-100), Silent Valley (30), Siruveni Hills (20), Elival Mala (60), Nelliampathi Hills (30), Top Slip and Parambikulam (120), Eastern Slopes of Ananmala (125), Grass Hills of Anamala (250), Swamaimala (130) Eravikulam National Park (760), High Range (30), Palani Hills (60), Highwavy mountains (100), Mudaliar oothu (70), Vellakaltheri (90), Ashambu Hills (70), and Thiruvannamalai peak (40) (Nilgiri Tahr Trust, retrieved 02 January 2007).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1800-2000
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Nilgiri tahr is found at high elevations on cliffs, grass-covered hills, and open terrain (Nilgiri Tahr Trust, retrieved 03 January 2007). Females gestate for about 180 days, and usually give birth to one kid per pregnancy (Rice, 1984). Animals are sexually mature in the wild at around three years of age (Wilson, 1980; Rice, 1990), though they are only expected to live three or 3.5 years on average, their potential life span is at least 9 years (Rice, 1988; Rice, 1990). The species is diurnal, but are most active grazing in the early morning and late afternoon (Prater, 1971; Nowak, 1991).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Principal threats are habitat loss (mainly from domestic livestock and spread of invasive plants) and poaching (Daniels et al. 2008). The general trends of decline even in the best managed Tahr habitats indicate that the total population of the species does not exceed 2000 at present and a conservative estimate would place the numbers within the 1,800-2,000 range (Daniels et al., 2006). Currently, the only populations with more than 300 individuals are in Eravikulam National Park and in the Grass Hills in Anamalai. The most recent information from the Nilgiri hills (Mukurti Wildlife Sanctuary), which previously had more than 300 tahr (Davidar, 1978; Rice, 1984; Schaller, 1971), indicates that only between 75 and 100 individuals remain. Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) plantations and cattle apparently no longer threaten the Mukurti population, so their decline is probably due solely to illegal hunting. The status of the other smaller populations (many of which are less than 100 individuals), which are also subject to continued illegal hunting, can be considered precarious. Similar population decreases and threats to the species were reported in a survey in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (Rai and Johnsingh, 1992).

Populations of these animals are small and isolated, making them vulnerable to local extinction. Habitat patches for Nilgiri tahr are naturally discontinuous, but some habitat fragmentation may have anthropogenic causes (C. Rice pers. comm., 2008). The species faces competition from domestic livestock, whose overgrazing has allowed for the invasion of graze-resistant weedy species into preferred meadows, thus in competition with the native grasses that tahr prefers (Mishra and Johnsingh, 1998). Continued conversion of tahr habitat to agricultural land has resulted in a present distribution that is about one-tenth of its historical range (Mishra and Johnsingh, 1998; Kannery, 2002; IUCN, 2004).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Nilgiri tahr is fully protected (Schedule I) by the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, although this protection is rarely enforced and illegal hunting is a major threat (Kannery, 2002; IUCN, 2004).

The creation of Eravikulam and Silent Valley National Parks, Mukurti, Anamalai, and Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Srivilliputhur Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary and the Kalakadu-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, together offer an important degree of protection to the Nilgiri Tahr. Eravikulam National Park and its surroundings has been cited as having nearly 1,000 individuals (Kannery, 2002), although others have questioned this figure, believing it to be too high (Abraham et al. 2006, M. Alembath pers. comm., 2008).

The Tamil Nadu Forest Department is removing exotic monocultures along the periphery of the Mukurti National Park. In addition, institutions such as the Nilgiri Wildlife Association, High Range Wildlife Association, Ramnad District Wildlife Association, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Bombay Natural History Society and the Wildlife Institute of India, are active in promoting conservation of Nilgiri tahr. Conservation measures proposed: The Nilgiri tahr requires continuous study and monitoring, because its small and isolated populations are extremely vulnerable. With proper conservation, including habitat maintenance and minimising mortality due to hunting, it is possible that with time, the species could be considered no longer threatened, if the following are accomplished: 1) Establish the proposed Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. This would include the Bandipur, Nagarhole and Silent Valley National Parks, the Mudumalai, Mukurti and Wynad Wildlife Sanctuaries, the Bolampatti Reserved Forest and the proposed Karipuzha National Park (WCMC, 1988c), and encompass a Nilgiri tahr population of 400 to 450 individuals (Davidar, 1978; Rice, 1984). An extension to such a reserve has also been proposed (Rice, 1990) to include peripheral cliffs used by tahr as escape and birthing terrain. A revised biosphere reserve design of these conservation units has been suggested by Rodgers and Panwar (1988). 2) Enact management proposals that include the systematic monitoring of tahr populations, as well as possible re-introductions (Rice, 1988a, 1990; Rai and Johnsingh, 1992). There is good potential for re-introductions in areas such as the Kalakadu-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve where several highlands had small populations of tahr some 20 to 40 years ago, but today are very small or non-existent (Rai and Johnsingh, 1992). 3) Consider low impact recreational use (e.g. trekking, fishing) of suitable areas, especially where such activities would benefit (and compensate) the local economy for restrictions on traditional activities such as hunting by local inhabitants. 4) Co-ordinate Nilgiri tahr with other wildlife and habitat conservation efforts, because the Western Ghats are one of India’s major wildlife areas.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.7. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude
4. Grassland -> 4.7. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.2. Small-holder farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.2. Small-holder grazing, ranching or farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.1. Unspecified species
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Abraham, S. K., Easa, P. S. and Sivaram, M. 2006. Status and distribution of Nilgiri Tahr Hemitragus hylocrius in Kerala part of the Western Ghats. Zoos' Print Journal 21(9): 2379-2385.

Bala Thiagarajan. 2001. Habitat analysis for the Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius Ogilby) using remote sensing and GIS in the Palni Hill ranges. Unpublished Dissertation, Pondicherry University, Pondicherry, India.

Daniels, R. J. R., Easa, P. and Alembath, M. 2008. Distribution and status of the endangered Nilgiri tahr. Current Science 94: 10-11.

Daniels, R. J. R., Easa, P. S., Ramkumar, K., Arumugam, R., Mammen, P. and Alembath, M. 2006. How many Nilgiri Tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius) are there in the wild? Paper presented at the Fourth World Congress on Mountain Ungulates, Munnar (Kerala), 12-15 September 2006.

Davidar, E. R. C. 1978. Distribution and status of the Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius) - 1975-78. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 75: 815-844.

Easa, P. S. and Sivaram, M. 2002. Habitat Suitability Index Model for Nilgiri Tahr, Hemitragus hylocrius (Ogilby) in Eravikulam National Park. KFRI Research Report No. 242. Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Thrissur.

Grubb, P. 2005. Artiodactyla. In: D.E. Wilson & D.M. Reeder (ed.), Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), pp. 637-722. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.

IUCN. 1994. IUCN Red List Categories. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN. 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Kannery, S. S. 2002. Ponmudi-Ibex Hill: Vanishing habitat of an isolated population of Nilgiri tahr. Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group: 5.

Karunakaran, P. V., Uniyal, V. K. and Rawat, G. S. 1994. Grassland communities and the distribution of the Nilgiri Tahr, 1994. IIFM, Bhopal, India.

Mishra, C. and Johnsingh, A. J. T. 1998. Population and conservation status of the Nilgiri tahr Hemitragus hylocrius in Anamalai Hills, south India. Biological Conservation 86(2): 199-206.

Mohan, A. 2002. Conservation and management of Nilgiri Tahr in Eravikulam National Park. 111rd World Conference On Mountain Ungulates, Saragossa Spain.

Mohan, A. 2002. Distribution and abundance of Nilgiri tahr, Hemitragus hylocrius (Ogilby) in Periyar Tiger Reserve. India Eco-development Project (World Bank aided project).

Murugan. 1997. Habitat Analysis of the Nilgiri tahr in the Mukurthi National Park. NWEA, Nilgiris.

Nowak, R.M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA and London, UK.

Prater, S. 1971. The Book of Indian Animals. Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay, India.

Rai, N. D. and Johnsingh, A. J. T. 1992. Survey of Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius) in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu, India. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, India.

Rice, C. G. 1984. The behaviour and ecology of Nilgiri Tahr. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC, USA.

Rice, C. G. 1988. Habitat, population dynamics, and conservation of Nilgiri tahr, Hemitragus hylocrius. Biological Conservation 44: 137-l 56.

Rice, C. G. 1988. Notes on the food habits of Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius). Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 85: 188-189.

Rice, C. G. 1990. Nilgiri tahr, Eravikulam National Park, and conservation. In: J. C. Daniel and J. S. Serrao (eds), Conservation in developing countries.problems andprospects, pp. 387-399. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, India.

Rodgers, W. A. and Panwar, H. S. 1988. Planning a wildlife protected area network in India. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, India.

Ropiquet, A. and Hassanin, A. 2005. Molecular evidence for the polyphyly of the genus Hemitragus (Mammalia, Bovidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36: 154–168.

Schaller, G. B. 1971. Observations on Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius Ogilby, 1838). Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 67: 365-389.

Shackleton, D.M. 1997. Wild Sheep and Goats and Their Relatives: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Caprinae. IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Surendra-Varman, K. 1996. Population count of nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius Ogilby) in Mukuruti National Park, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India. Tiger Paper 23(2): 4-8.

The Nilgiri Tahr Trust. 2007. Nilgiri Tahr Populations. Available at: (Accessed: 02 January).

World Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1988. Directory of the proposed Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Protected Areas Data Unit, World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK.

Citation: Alempath, M. & Rice, C. 2008. Nilgiritragus hylocrius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T9917A13026736. . Downloaded on 19 June 2018.
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