The Endangered Philippine Tarsier
The Philippine Tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world, with an average weight of a mere 110-140 grams . They live in the southeastern Philippines within primary and secondary tropical rainforests, mangrove forests, amongst bush thickets, tall grasses and bamboo. They are much rarer in agricultural and other developed areas. Tarsiers move around the forest by leaping amongst and clinging to trees [1,2,3].
Tarsiers are nocturnal animals, and they use their very large eyes to navigate and hunt for food at night. They can rotate their head 180 degrees, enabling precise backward leaping through trees and other vegetation [1,2].
Although they primarily eat insects, they may also eat small animals such as spiders, crustaceans, frogs, young birds, mice, small fish, and small lizards. Their natural predators include feral cats, civets, raptors, snakes and monitor lizards .
Currently, the population of this tarsier is decreasing and has been categorized as a “Near Threatened” species .
Why is the Philippine Tarsier endangered?
The loss of Philippine Tarsier habitat is primarily due to logging and mining in the forests that they live in, along with the persistence of an illegal pet trade industry and being hunted for food by local people have threatened the tarsier population [1,2].
Tarsiers also suffer from high infant mortality rates in the wild and captivity.
Although tarsiers can survive in more developed areas with bushes or trees, they prefer the undisturbed habitat of primary (its most preferred habitat) or secondary forest that is much less disturbed .
Efforts to breed tarsiers in captivity have been largely unsuccessful so far .
What is being done to help the tarsiers?
The Philippine Tarsier is now protected by law in the Philippines, and there are a number of protected areas where they live. More research is needed to learn about the biology and ecological role of tarsiers and how resilient they can be without the presence of forest habitat.
Better control of the tarsier harvest and trade is also needed, as well as the education of local people regarding the ecological importance of the tarsier .
Tarsier sanctuaries and conservation centers are being established to help protect the species, but it is yet uncertain as to how successful tarsier breeding will be within these establishments [1,2].
What can you do to help the tarsiers?
Although the endangerment of the Philippine Tarsier is primarily a regional issue in the Philippines and its surrounding countries, there are a few actions that you could take to help protect tarsiers .
- Because tarsiers do not fare well in captivity, they should never be kept as pets.
- You should report any cases of hunting, killing, or smuggling of tarsiers that you may come across.
- Do not support any businesses that illegally display tarsiers.
- You can support and send donations to organizations that work to conserve tarsiers and perform research to learn more about them.