Tracing the Philippine Tarsier on Bohol Island

Posted on April 24, 2012 by

T he air was thick with humidity. We followed the trail that snaked through the dense tropical foliage, pushing past thick molave leaves as we ventured further.

“Shhh…” Our 18-year-old park ranger, Ijie, stopped us in our tracks and pointed at a branch hanging above our heads. There they were – two furry critters hugging the branch tightly with their frog-like web feet, staring curiously at us with their saucer-wide eyes. Ijie giggled, “their eyes are actually bigger than their brains”.

A closeup of the tarsier

On Bohol island, we were in search of the maomag or Philippine tarsier. These palm-sized primates are rare endemic creatures found almost exclusively on Bohol  in the Central Visayas of the Philippines. The Tarsier Sanctuary, home to over 1,000 tarsiers, is the best place to see them. Only one hectare out of the 100 hectare sanctuary is opened to visitors – that morning, Ijie led us through the visitor area, her eyes scouring the tree branches overhead for signs of the animal. Just five minutes into our walk and she had already spotted two of the resident tarsiers hiding beneath a leaf.

Tarsiers have existed for almost 45 million years and now face the danger of extinction with the disappearance of their natural habitat.

 

No touching, no flash photography and no shaking of trees – these were the three rules we had to adhere to in the tarsier sanctuary. “Tarsiers are nocturnal animals, we should not disturb their sleep,” explained Ijie. While walking through the sanctuary, we made sure to keep as quiet as possible. We also learned later that tarsiers are territorial animals, they get easily stressed once outside of their natural environment and often commit suicide as a result.

Tarsiers have existed for almost 45 million years and now face the danger of extinction with the disappearance of their natural habitat. Ijie explained that the Philippine Tarsier Foundation was set up to protect and conserve the endemic animal and that only one man in the world knows how to breed tarsiers.

the tarsier from below

Mr Lito Pisarras, a fit and down-to-earth native, is a pioneer tarsier conservationist and has contributed largely to the conservation projects for the past few decades. Now the field manager of PTF, he monitors the animals on a daily basis and ensures that the sanctuary maintains the population of 1,000 over tarsiers. When asked how he’d developed a strong connection with the tarsiers, he said, “I grew up in the jungles of Bohol and lived amongst these animals for decades, they are like family to me.”

With such so much conservation efforts put into protecting this Philippine treasure, I’m sure the tarsiers will continue to live on for many years ahead.

A full length photo of the tarsier


This trip was made possible by Department of Tourism Philippines. Special thanks to good friend and local expert Ivan Henares for organizing this. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Read more about our trip through the Philippines here or follow our journey on Twitter using the #WJAsia hashtag.

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

12 Responses to “Tracing the Philippine Tarsier on Bohol Island”

  1. @thelostbackpack April 24, 2012 9:50 pm #

    How cute are they!

  2. Susan-TravelJunkette April 24, 2012 10:35 pm #

    Ahh! They are so cute. I would love to see them in the wild.

  3. travelrinserepeat April 25, 2012 10:54 am #

    Wow those are some of the cutest – yet simultaneously creepiest – animals I've ever seen.

    • Nellie April 25, 2012 7:57 pm #

      Yes they\’re the cutest – not that creepy really when you see them in real life. ;)

      • maria June 11, 2012 3:15 pm #

        im just asking but are you a filipina i always read what you blog

        • Nellie Huang June 18, 2012 2:05 am #

          hey Maria, no Im a Singaporean. Many people mistake me for a Filipina, and I find that flattering! Filipinas are the friendliest bunch of people in Asia. :)

  4. Flashpacker August 4, 2012 3:36 pm #

    The IT demons have deleted my previous comment from April. Speaking of gremlins, seeing the tarsier was one of the many highlights when visiting the Philippines, as part of our around the world trip, the photographs are so life like. I didn't realise how small these little creatures actually are.

  5. Wild Bill March 5, 2013 11:59 am #

    luv this animal, heres some more info if required http://www.tarsiers.info/

  6. Kristy of Visa USA June 30, 2013 9:14 pm #

    Tarsiers can only be found in Bohol, Philippines. They are adorable creature but can easily be stress out because of too much noise in their environment and also the flash of your cameras when tourists wants to take pictures of them.

  7. CK Sim August 16, 2013 11:36 pm #

    Nice write up on my favourite monkey, must visit this place

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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