Posted by WorkingAbroad Projects on Monday, 25th September 2017
“Do you see him?”
“Look closely, under that branch.”
Early each morning a ritual similar to an Easter egg hunt takes place at the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary in Bohol, Philippines. Only instead of hunting for Easter eggs, the workers are on the lookout for the sanctuary’s eight featured tarsiers. At just 5 ounces and 6 inches long, these tiny primates are not exactly easy to spot. But once the dedicated sanctuary employees find which trees their furry little residents are resting in they can show them to the visitors who are coming to watch and learn more about these fascinating animals. At a safe, silent and respectful distance, of course.
If you are ever on the beautiful island of Bohol, Philippines, you do not want to miss out on the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Tarsiers are the world’s smallest primates. With ginormous eyes and bat-like ears they might look more like Yoda than they do a monkey, but just like their primate relatives they are adept at climbing and living in trees.
Sadly, they are also endangered.
A few decades ago, Philippine tarsiers were on the brink of extinction. Poachers would kill them for taxidermy or capture them to become pets (no doubt because they are too cute for their own good). In addition to that, their rainforest habitat was shrinking due to logging and development. The future did not bode well for the tarsier.
One man helped to change the course of the tarsier’s future. Carlito Pizarras was formerly a tarsier poacher who decided instead to help preserve tarsiers after observing them in depth. He and his family worked hard to care for captive tarsiers and release them back into the wild. Eventually he was able to help the Sanctuary become a reality.
Today the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary is doing quite well. It’s home to over 100 tarsier individuals. Most of these individuals live on the reserve in a habitat that’s almost exactly like the wild, with almost no human contact. Eight of the tarsiers live in a special enclosure, still very similar to their native habitat, in a swathe of trees they (very slowly) travel around. These tarsiers are the only ones that the public is able to see. Coming face to face with an adorable Philippine tarsier creates an emotional connection with the visitor and helps to spread the awareness and motivation to help the tarsiers – even if it’s just a modest donation to the sanctuary.
Rest assured that the eight tarsiers on “display” are treated with extreme care and protection. Holding or touching them is forbidden. Flash photography and loud noises are absolutely not allowed – in fact, talking is kept to a whisper. In addition to this, the guides move the visitors along after a few minutes so that the tarsiers are continually allowed to be in peace. Tarsiers move very slowly so once they choose a tree for the day, they stick to it – luckily this makes photo ops a little bit easier!
There is more than one outfit to see tarsiers in the Philippines. Unfortunately, not all of them follow the same careful, respectful protocol for the tarsier’s well-being. Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary is a sanctuary that treats its tarsiers with kindness, and works towards tarsier preservation. You can pay for admission here knowing that it will go toward protecting the tarsier for future generations. And coming face to face with one of these incredible little creatures is an experience you will remember forever.
To learn more about tarsier preservation and the Sanctuary, see http://www.tarsierfoundation.org
By WorkingAbroad Blog Writer Brenna Saunders
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