Bohol is home to the World's smallest known primate, the Philippine Tarsier. (Though, their primate status & classification is up for debate!) These little Yoda-look a-likes are precious and tiny! They grow to be no larger than an adult male's hand. We were lucky to find ourselves in Bohol, one of the few places tarsiers are native to, with the opportunity to meet these little guys at the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Center.
I do believe that the Tarsier Conservation Area in Loboc, Bohol is trying to do a good job at protecting these endangered 'mamags', the local term for these small creatures. At least it appeared so in the areas that we saw. The Conservation center has sought to keep the place serene and tranquil for the easily stressed tarsiers, despite the influx of tourists. Each group is assigned a tour guide, that makes sure every person is following the park rules. Touching the tarsiers and using flash photography are prohibited & silence is observed through out the conservation area. Sadly though, I have recently discovered that this conservation area is not apart of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, "a non-stock, non-profit organization established in 1996 to find ways to conserve as well as to promote the tarsier of Bohol."- The Tarsier Foundation
These endangered cuties are quite peculiar looking. They have large eyes, which are larger than their brain and stomachs. With those wide eyes, they are quite sensitive to light, which is why they love lounging around at the base of trees and bamboo in the shade. Just like an owl, they hunt at night and have a joint between their skull and spine, allowing their head to turn in an 180 degree arc. These insect & small animal eaters, have long ankle bones to easily jump from tree to tree.
We loved getting the chance to see these amazing animals but now I can't help but wish we had done our research and visited The Tarsier Sanctuary instead. With only 700 left in Bohol, I think all tourist "support" should go towards sanctuaries whose program goals are;
"1. To protect the Philippine Tarsier and its habitat from extinction through increased environmental awareness, research programs and establishment of protected areas for wildlife in the Province of Bohol2. To provide economic and social development opportunities to the local population through the introduction of eco-tourism-related livelihood endeavors." -Tarsier Foundation. Right? Right.
Except that upon further research, it seems The Tarsier Sanctuary and the Tarsier Conservation Area are doing the exact same things when it comes to tourism and the viewing of their tarsiers. People are not touching them, staying quiet & not using flash photography in both places AND tarsiers are still being viewed by tourists during the day, though they are nocturnal, living close together, though they tend to be alone in the wild & put under high stress because of both, due to their extremely shy nature, in both places. The conservation of these shy, endangered animals, seems to be a complicated matter in Bohol. The beauty of tourism is that it usually provides most of the funds for conservation & research, yet it's also the beast, placing stress on these fragile creatures. Ugh.
They are extremely cute, though? Right? Right! If you are in Bohol, I leave you to your own convictions on the rights & wrongs in the conservation & tourism in the tarsier population. If you'd still like to visit the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area, its only 50 php per person and easily accessible from the Chocolate Hills or Tagbilaran. Should you want to do more of your own research, check out tarsierfoundation.org or Project Tarsius.