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Animal World: Our Co-inhabitants

Tiny Treasures of the Forest: The Philippine Tarsier-People

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Fossils show that tarsier-people existed in many parts of the world 45 million years ago! Currently, our three subgroups reside mainly in Southeast Asia. The Philippine tarsier-people are considered some of the smallest primates on Earth. Weighing 80 to 160 grams, and 8.5 to 16 centimeters in height, an adult is close to the size of a human palm, and our babies the size of a human thumb.

Do you know where we derived the name “tarsier”? Look at the peculiarly long ankle bones we have. They are tarsals, hence our name. The most prominent feature of tarsier-people is our eyes, which are very large relative to our body size. Our ears rotate like satellites so that we can hear any movement coming from all around us.

Apart from our enormous eyes and exceptional ears, we have other unique physical features, such as our thin, rough fur colored gray to dark brown and our thin, furless tail with a tuft of hair at the end about twice the body length. We tend to be quite chatty and love communicating using different vocalizations like loud calls, whistles, trills for long-distance communication, or emotional expression.

Under natural conditions, our life span is 24 years, which contrasts dramatically with the 2 to 12 years we would survive in captivity. It was due to God’s Grace that Carlito Pizarras realized our plight! Over 30 years of caring diligence led to Carlito becoming an expert on tarsier-people.

Carlito was joined in his noble mission by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and by the Philippine government, who declared the tarsier-people as national protected animal-people. Finally, having recognized the preciousness of the tarsier-people, a local community established The Philippine Tarsier Foundation, a green and sustainable sanctuary where Bohol’s exclusive primates can continue to be protected and preserved. The Philippine tarsier-people were even given a new scientific name “Carlito syrichta” in recognition of Carlito’s lifelong contributions.

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