I finally saw a live tarsier! Not those fuzzy ones hanging from the rear view mirrors of automobiles, or those carved on bamboos used as pendants for key chains. I’m talking about a real breathing tarsier.
The tarsier is one of the oldest land species in continuous existence in the Philippines, dated at around 45 million years. Initially dubbed as the “world’s smallest monkey” due to its physical similarities to monkees, but the tarsier belongs to the more primitive suborder prosimil, or prosimian.
A missionary by the name of J.G. Camel gave the description of a tarsier to J. Petiver who published it in 1705. It was then the tarsier was initially given its scientific name Cerchopithecus Luzonis Minimus. It eventually got the name Simia Syrichta in 1758, and later Tarsius Syrichta. This is how it finally became known to the rest of the western world.
Locals refer to tarsiers as maomag.
The tarsier has one of the slowest fetal growth rates of any mammal, taking six months to reach a birth weight of 23 grams!
Tarsiers measure only between 8 to 16 cm. Despite its diminutive size, however, tarsiers can spin their heads 180 degrees, and jump to a height of 16 feet!
This tiny baby, however, has the highest infant-weight-to-maternal weight ratio of any primate that gives birth to a single infant.
Also, female tarsiers readily act as foster mothers to orphaned baby tarsiers.
Besides director Steven Spielberg’s E.T., John Lucas’ Yoda was also inspired by the Tarsier. It would certainly be nice if they could both contribute to the upkeep of tarsiers in sanctuaries here in the Philippines.
At the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella, Bohol, the tarsiers are no kept in cages, but live in a gated protected area. Being nocturnal creatures, they are free to roam and hunt for their food – even jumping outside of the sanctuary’s fences – but they do return home when done with their nighttime gallivanting.
This Tarsier Sanctuary is a sprawling 134 hectares of forested land. The Tarsier Sanctuary is in the midst of the towns of Sicatuna and Corella in Bohol.
To get to there, one can ride a bus or jeepney. In the Tagbilaran bus/jeepney terminal, take a bus that is bound for Sikatuna, which is about a 30-minute ride.
From Sikatuna, you can hire a pedicab or motorbike for about 40 pesos. For a faster and more convenient trip, you can also get a cab or one of those for-hire cars from hotels and travel agencies. The sactuary is approximately 14 kilometers from Tagbilaran City, and about four kilometers from Corella.
As much as I was thrilled to have finally seen these cute creatures, I was hit with a sense of guilt upon realizing that out of thousands of tarsiers who reside in this sanctuary, only four remain awake for tourists to gawk over and photograph. It seems as if these four had boldly sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow tarsiers and their young from the stressful role of being eco-tour exhibits.
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