The Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is a gorgeous animal. With its short, coarse fur, and bristly mane, it is a real treat to observe. I had heard a lot about this animal, but had not yet seen it. I heard that it was easy to see Nilgiri Tahrs at Eravikulam National Park in Munnar, so without any delay, I decided to pay a visit with my family. 

We reached the national park early in the morning, and headed out for a drive. We were soon greeted by the sight of the Anamudi peak, and the Rajmoula tea gardens – an uplifting sight! 

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The Anamudi peak, the highest peak in south India

After ascending the peak for some time in the car, we decided to continue on foot. It was extremely crowded, and I expected the tahrs to be higher up the slope, in a less crowded place. However, to my surprise, I came across one quite early on, and managed to take some photographs. 

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A shot of the first Nilgiri Tahr I chanced upon

However, there is a dark side to all this. The crowd of people that were all around suddenly began rushing to the tahr, getting really close to it. So I decided to stop taking natural history-style portraits of the animal and capture the truth. After all, isn’t that what a wildlife photographer should do? I was shocked to see so many people touch the tahr, treating it like a mere goat! I asked them to stop, but no one wanted to hear a 14-year-old kid’s suggestion.  

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The ugly truth: a scene of chaos and disruption (left); A man taking a selfie with a Nilgiri Tahr

I’ve been wanting to raise awareness about this issue, as it has been troubling me for some time now, long after we left Eravikulam. There are only around 3,122 Nilgiri Tahrs left in the wild. They are listed as an Endangered species, and are also the state animal of Kerala. In my view, treating a wild animal like this is a real shame. 

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A scene of peace and serenity; perhaps what we want people to see

Educating people is an important way to bring about change, as many people treat them as ordinary goats and do not know anything about the need to conserve them. While people respect the tiger as it is more well known, many neglect lesser-known species like the tahr. But just like the tiger, the Nilgiri Tahr is endangered, and we must do more than just take selfies with it. After all, shouldn’t we protect what we love?