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The Philippine Tarsier
By: Marjorie Persons



Description and Rationale





Philippine Tarsier


The Philippine Tarsier is a wonderful and amazing animal that is rarely found outside of protected sanctuaries in the Philippines. It is an endangered species with a population that is quickly plummeting towards extinction. Philippine tarsiers are found in the south-eastern part of the country, particularly Bohol, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. These tarsiers have grown in popularity, yet, sadly, decreased phenomenally in population over the years.


What would happen if all the tarsiers went extinct in the Philippines? How would that extinction affect the locals in the Philippines? How will it affect the locals primarily in Bohol? If the tarsiers did go extinct, would it affect the trade and commerce of the Philippines? Are the tarsiers destined for extinction? Or is there still hope for them?


One major impact that the tarsier has on the Philippines is the amount of tourists that come as well as the money that they bring with them. A few of the things about the Philippines that help bring in people from foreign countries are the tarsiers, as well as the beautiful landscape and beaches. However, the tarsier is definitely a help to the Philippines in making money.


If the tarsier were to go extinct, there would be a population boost primarily amongst the crickets and grasshoppers. Many locals would begin to lose even more money since they have jobs within the tarsier sanctuaries. In Bohol, the Loboc River is one example of a major sanctuary area. There are a few natives working along side with trained professionals within the sanctuaries. Without the tarsiers, the Loboc River would be just another river that nobody would want to visit since it is so far away from the city and the beach.


The purpose of this project is to research the habitat and characteristics of the tarsier in order to see if anything can be done to prevent or slow down the process of the extinction of the tarsier primarily in Bohol. The way this will be done is through a showing of some sort of visual aide as to what dangers the tarsier is facing. The information gathered on this will be used in order to find a way to help protect and free some tarsiers rather than keeping them in cages. (For even though they live within the sanctuary, they live inside cages.)


It is hoped that this project will be to the benefit of the Philippine Tarsier by increasing their habitat area, decreasing the amount that are taken as pets (even though it is illegal), and as a result, increasing their population.



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Common Names and Synonyms


Tarsius syrichtais is also called the Philippine tarsier. To native Filipinos, the tarsier is also commonly known as the Mawmag. The reason that the tarsier is given its name is because of its extended tarsus ankle bone allows it to jump at least three meters without touching the ground.





Kingdom    Animalia

Phylum    Chordata

Class        Mammalia

Order        Primates (one of the first)

Family        Tarsiidae

Genus        Tarsius    

Species    T. syrichtais


There are eight different types of tarsiers, however, the only main difference is the location in which they are found. It is also argued as to whether or not the tarsier is actually in the order of the Primates because they have also been classified with the simians.



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Morphology and Physical Description



The tarsier’s body can grow up to be about four to six inches long, but its tail is about twice the length of its body. The body shape is very round and small and can fit very easily on the palm of a human hand. It has two large eyes and is known in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest eyes on any mammal. The size of the eyes make vision at night for the tarsier easy. Their eyes are fixed into its skull and cannot move which is why their heads are able to rotate 180 degrees. The fur on the tarsier’s body is silky and can be anywhere from a light brown to a grayish color. Its tail is almost completely bald except for maybe a few hairs at the tip. At the end of its fingers and toes, the tarsier have round, disk-like pads which help it to grab on easily to basically any surface. They also have nails at the tips of their fingers and toes except for their second and third toe, where they have sharp claws, which are used for grooming.


The anklebone is where the tarsier gets its name. The tibia and the fibula are fused together in the lower areas, which act as a shock absorber for when the tarsier jumps from tree to tree. The lower limbs of the tarsier are elongated which allows the tarsier to jump around 3 meters. The way the tarsier jumps is similar to that of a frog.




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Getting Food


The tarsiers are carnivorous but are mainly insectivorous. It eats live insects, small crustaceans, spiders, small lizards, and small birds. Once the tarsier has captured its prey, it carries its meal to its mouth and eats it. If the tarsier was eating a grasshopper, for example, it would grab the grasshopper and tear one part of its body off and stick it in it’s mouth while holding on to the other part of the body




The tarsier reproduces by sexual reproduction. Mating season begins around April to May. The female’s gestation period lasts about six months and usually gives birth to only one offspring per pregnancy. The baby is born with open eyes and fur, which is unlike most mammals born with eyes shut and no fur. The females carry their child in their mouth. A newborn baby tarsier is already able to cling to trees and jump.


Environmental Factors



The Philippine Tarsier's habitat is the secondary forest (natural forest growth after some major disturbance) and primary forest (a forest that has never been logged or disturbed) from sea level to 700 m. Its habitat also includes tropical rainforest with dense vegetation and trees that offer it protection such as tall grasses, bushes and bamboo shoots. Research findings also show that the Philippine Tarsier prefer dense, low-level vegetation in secondary forests, with perching sites averaging 2 meters above the ground.

Besides humans, wild cats banished from nearby areas and large birds are the species' main predators. Because it is nocturnal, the tarsier is most likely to become prey for owls or to small carnivores, which it can encounter in its canopy homes.


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Origin and Distribution


The Philippine tarsier is, according to the name, from the Philippines. Within the Philippines, the tarsier is found in the south-eastern part of the country. The most common places they are found are in Bohol, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. They have also been found in various, isolated islands.


Importance to People



There isn’t a known negative effect of tarsiers on humans as long as they stay in their natural environment like they are supposed to. However, when captured and caged, there is a possible spread of diseases, such as worms, to human owners.

In the Philippines, the tarsiers are part of the reason for some major tourism. Since they are rare, they have a tendency to bring in a lot of curious foreigners who pay money to see them. Many locals have jobs within the sanctuaries or around the sanctuaries. If these tarsiers were to go extinct, these jobs that the locals would have would be terminated, causing them to be even poorer than they already are. Also, since the species is endangered, if it died off, then the tourism rate wouldn’t be as high and the Philippines would lose money in that. Another result of extinction, the insect population would grow more and the amount of pests around would grow as well.


Survivability and Endangered Status

 The Philippine tarsier is an endangered species with a population that is dropping quickly due to the lack of insects and shelter as well as the fact that there are people illegally taking the tarsiers, killing them, stuffing them, and selling them. However, the tarsier is now a species that is protected by law. President Fidel V. Ramos signed Proclamation 1030, which has made the Tarsier a protected species. On the other hand, they are also in danger of carnivores bigger than them that are roaming around in the dark such as owls, as well as destruction of natural rain forests. There are about 5,000 to 10,000 tarsiers left in the whole world and the number is quickly dropping.



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Potential Solutions


Is it possible to increase the population of the tarsier? There seem to be several ways to increase awareness of the damage that is actually being done to tarsiers that may be able to benefit the tarsiers.  Below are 2 possibilities with a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages for each.







Possibility 1


A Brochure


One could create a brochure in order to help show the dangers the tarsiers are facing. It could be shown to any Filipinos whose lives are affected by the tarsiers in one way indirectly or directly.




1.    It would be better to show someone face to face what the tarsier population is going through.



1.    The amount of paper and ink used to make the brochures that are to be handed can turn out to be costly and out of budget.


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Possibility 2


A Video (Action Step)


One could create a video rather than a brochure to show what opposing factors the tarsier is facing. It could be shown to any Filipinos who are affected, in one way or another, by the tarsier.


I e-mailed my parents the video to show to a few people who either have lived or still live in Bohol, a place where tarsiers are found. They showed it to them and this was the response given:


“Very good job!  We like it!  They are nocturnal.  They go out hunting for food at night and go back to their habitat during the day.  They don’t like camera flash.  If you take them out of their habitat, they will commit suicide even if they have partners.  They have very soft feet like baby’s skin.  I like holding them.  Ate Yulie and ate Celsa watched it too.  They like it too.  Very good job!



Dad & Mom”



1.    It is not costly and is easily accessed on a computer or television.

2.    It can possibly catch the attention of a viewer better than a brochure may be able to



1.    A television and computer are not always accessibly in rural areas.


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Ijsselstein. "The Philippine Tarsier." Bohol. 24 Apr. 2008. 24 Apr. 2008 <http://www.bohol.ph/article15.html>.


Persons, Richard D. E-Mail interview. 3 May 2008.


"Philippine Tarsier." Txtmania. The Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc. 12 Apr. 2008 <http://www.txtmania.com/articles/tarsier.php>.


"Philippine Tarsiers." Wikipedia. 9 Apr. 2008. 17 Apr. 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Tarsier>.


Sarangani. "Sarangani's Tarsiers Photo Gallery." PBase.Com. 3 May 2008 <http://www.pbase.com/sarangani/tarsiers>.


"Tarsier." Tarsieruk. 12 Apr. 2008 <http://tarsieruk.homestead.com/tarsier.html>.


"The Tarsier." Bundok Philippines. 12 Apr. 2008 <http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/3712/tarsier.html>.



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