“Go and enjoy sighting the goats”, the auto-wallah commented mischieviously. We smiled at his ignorance and moved along.
We were in auto for long( traveling all the way from Munnar town) so coming out was a relief. Walking slowly and stretching ourselves, the eyes started to marvel the surroundings – an evergreen forest interspersed with rolling grasslands. We were in the Eravikulam (the Rajamalai) National park, which is situated on a 6400 feet high plateau. This national park is home to Anamudi, the highest peak of South India, standing tall at 8842 feet above sea level. The well-laden path to the top was providing ravishing views of the valley, the serpentine road and its hairpin bends.
This sanctuary is famous as the abode of once near to extinction Nilgiri-Tahr, the goats of ignorants. Zoologically they are part of the bovine family like sheep, goats and even buffallos and genetically they are closest to goat-antelope family (the Ovis). At the start of the 20th century, indiscriminate hunting and poaching reduced them into pathetic two digit numbers. This national park has played an important role in thwarting the danger of their eminent extinction. Today there are around two thousand and five hundred Nilgiri Tahrs in wild and around half of this population lives in this national park.
There are three species of wild Tahrs, all of them are still under the threat of extinction. Two of them are found in South Asia, the Himalayan and the Nilgiri Tahrs and the third one, Arabian Tahr, is found in Oman. The favourable climatic conditions of the Nilgiri Tahrs and the Arabian Tahrs are just opposite to each other. The Arabian Tahr survives in arid-desert conditions while Nilgiri Tahr thrives in humid and moist conditions.