Friday, March 13, 2009
TARSIER WANTS TO PHONE HOME, BUT HAS NO LOAD
(BOHOL vacation, Part One)
We spent a day touring around the popular sites in Bohol, and one of them was viewing the Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta), the smallest known specie of monkey and indigenous to Bohol.
It has gray fur and a nearly naked tail. Tarsiers are named as such because of their special elongated tarsial bones, which form their ankles and enable them to leap to almost 10 feet from tree to tree. They weigh only 4 - 5 ounces, and are quite small (around 11 cm, or 4 inches only). Their diet is composed mainly of crickets.
Another interesting factoid is that tarsiers can rotate their head almost 180 degrees in each direction. Whoa!
Being classified as an endangered species, the government had stepped in and established an 'official' Tarsier sanctuary in Corella, where an approximately 134-hectare piece of land has been set aside as the Phil. Tarsier Sanctuary. Here, there are supposedly more than a hundred tarsiers living in the wild.
However, since it was not very accessible and the tarsiers were probably not keen on being disturbed, what the DENR did was to put up 4 accredited viewing sites, such as the one that we went to in Loboc.
It is essentially a small roadside shack with a few trees, each having its resident tarsier; and some souvenir stands selling all sorts of knick knacks, Peanut Kisses (it mystifies me why Hershey's has not yet sued these people in Bohol for blatant trademark infringement?!? :D), and cold drinks.
Oh, there are some strict guidelines in viewing these creatures, namely:
a) NO flash photography, as this will either scare them or damage their eyes, or both.
b) NO touching! Once stressed, they become suicidal.
c) NO, you can't buy them, and make them into household pets!
Most people i know have described these creatures as 'cute', which quite honestly, was the last word i would use to describe them!
Our guide also mentioned that these tarsiers were nocturnal creatures, which begs the obvious question: What do they do at night? After all, all tourists visit them during daytime hours, and all they ever do is hang on tree branches for dear life, with this worried, bug-eyed look.
Some questions burned in my mind:
Can the tarsiers really leap from tree to tree? I have yet to see any National Geographic or Discovery Channel documentary showing this.
What could they be doing during the 'witching' hours when they are awake? Play hopscotch? Wipe their snot on each other's eyes for fun? What?!?
Our guide, and anyone else we asked, didn't know. Hmph.
After taking pics and looking at them closely, my friend R.T. jokingly commented, "E.T. phone home."
I don't know, man, but i think they're deadringers for Gollum from LOTR! Like this one:
Fortunately, though, we also saw the lesser-known, much cuter cousin of the tarsier, as you can see below:
I'm sure you'll all agree with me that they're much more endearing, eh?
(Thanks to Sheila Tan for the pics, taken with her new 8.0 megapixel camera)