Meeting the Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta), one of the smallest primates, is a must when visiting the island of Bohol. Why? First, Philippine tarsiers are considered endangered animals. Second, they are endemic in the southern Philippines islands of Bohol, Samar, Leyte, and in Mindanao. Third, they have the largest eye-to-body ratio of all mammals that makes them so adorable.
Get to know the Philippine Tarsier
Here are some fascinating facts about the Philippine Tarsier
- They are nocturnal creatures and should not be disturbed at any time of the day
- They are shy and easily get stressed/nervous
- They commit suicide during captivity due to trauma from touching and loud noise
- They thrive mostly in secondary forests and dense patches or thickets of bush, tall grass and bamboo
- On average, it weighs only about 120 grams and no more than 100 millimetres in height
- Their tail considerably longer than its body (189 to 293 millimetres for males)
- Their tail is an integral component of the animals locomotive system, functioning as a kind pf fifth limb
- Like a monkey, has a flattened face, round skull, erect posture, and haemochorial placenta
- In shape and size, its ears resemble a bat’s
- Their eyes are almost twice as large as those of humans but incapable of seeing from the corners
- Their head, which can rotate up to 180 degrees, enabling it to leap backward with high precision.
- They can cling to branches either vertically or horizontally
- They are territorial; A single tarsier needs at least a hectare of space per individual
- They are insectivores and feed on crickets, beetles, termites and other insects as well as on lizards, small fishes, young birds, frogs and mice crabs, ingesting them live.
- They consumed 10 to 12 grams of food in a single day
Where to meet these little creatures?
During our Bohol Escapade, meeting the Philippine tarsier was included in the Countryside Tour Package we got. On Kuya Jun (our tour driver) chose to bring us to the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. The tarsier sanctuary is the recommended site to visit (there is another viewing centre) when you want to see these little creatures since you can view them in their natural habitat. Plus, it is an institution dedicated to the preservation and scientific researches on the endemic tarsier of Bohol. The sanctuary is also a member of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc. (PTFI).
On the way to the sanctuary, he told us a lot of information about the tarsier and its discovery. He also told us that if lucky enough, we could have a photo op with the Tarsier man, Sir Carlito himself. However, luck was not in our side that day as Sir Carlito was out of town.
My close encounter with these little creatures reminded me of Star Wars. Tarsiers have an uncanny resemblance to Master Yoda, especially their eyes and ears. So if you are a fan of the Jedi Master, you would probably enjoy watching these tree-dwelling creatures.
Oh by the way, the alternative centre where you can view the tarsiers is the Tarsier Conservation Area near Loboc. However, I have heard that tarsiers there are kept in captivity for public viewing which is hazardous to the animal’s health. They are caged and live miserably. Captive tarsiers have shorter lives and reproduce less compared to those that are in their natural habitat.
So if you want to save the tarsiers and not contribute to the extinction of these little creatures, it is recommended to visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella instead.