Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tarsiers in Tagum

TAGUM CITY - This past month, Tagumenyos talked with so much excitement the existence of tarsiers in the city. Considered to be the world’s smallest primate, tarsiers are usually associated by Filipinos with the province of Bohol in the Visayas region. This probably explains why the news of tarsiers being released in one of the parks here created so much buzz.

So tiny you can hold it in your palm, a tarsier’s usual height is between 4 to 7 inches and only weighs 70 to 165 grams. Living on a diet of insects, the tarsier is mostly active at night. With their big eyes, they have a very acute night vision that makes them good night hunters. Their big ears can move in the direction of any noise. Their heads are capable to make a fast switch of 180 degrees, which make their hunting qualities high.


In the town of Corella in Bohol, a conservation sanctuary draws thousands of tourists to take a peek in the world’s smallest monkey.

It thus has become a mascot of Philippine tourism, but sadly being so comes with a hefty price.
Tarsiers are now included in the list of threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, claiming that the animal’s forest habitats are being destroyed by logging, mining, agriculture and other human activities.
So how come these tiny nocturnal creatures found their way to Mindanao, in Tagum to be more precise?
Interestingly, tarsiers are not only confined in Bohol. Accounts of nature conservationists point out that other places in Mindanao like South Cotabato, Basilan and Dinagat Islands are also considered home by tarsiers.
In Davao Region for example, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) confirmed that colonies of tarsiers are found in Barangay Bobon in Mati City, Davao Oriental and in Barangay Suaon in nearby Kapalong town in Davao del Norte. In Calinan, Davao City, a habal-habal driver almost ran over a tarsier that passed by across the street.

These accounts manifest that indeed Mindanao is considered a sanctuary by the world’s smallest primate.


While tarsiers in Tagum are not really endemic to this rapidly urbanizing hub, the local government here is keen in offering its green parks as an alternative sanctuary to these tiny animals. In the month of April 2016, three tarsiers were released in separate occasions at the Tagum Botanical Park in Barangay San Agustin.

The said park is a 31-hectare green space developed by the City Government of Tagum that is planted with local and foreign tropical trees. Hilly in nature, the park is blanketed with a canopy of trees that makes it perfect for a day of picnic or soul-searching.

While parts of the park is devoted for human activities (e.g. gazebos are installed in strategic areas where groups of people converge to eat or meet), a large part of the park is still devoid of human intervention. Because noise easily stresses tarsiers, the Tagum Botanical Park is a perfect place for them since it is peaceful and silent. It’s like an oasis from the hustle and bustle of this rapidly-changing urban center.

In February 2016, a farmer found female tarsier in Barangay San Agustin near the Botanical Park, a surprising indication that tarsiers may also have their population thriving in Tagum.

Unknowingly, two of the tarsiers (male and female) that were released in the said park in March and April 2016 were not really found in Tagum. The two tarsiers were found in the towns of New Corella and Asuncion in Davao del Norte.

The persons that found them decided to turn them over to the City Government having known through television reports that the latter has a facility to take care of these animals. Mayor Allan L. Rellon welcomed this development and tasked the city’s environment and natural resources office to study on how the tarsiers found their way to Tagum and how the local government can help protect this endangered species.

A tarsier sanctuary in Tagum may sound cool but a veterinarian from the City Veterinary Office said it’s better to let the tarsiers live in their natural habitat. Asked by this writer on her advice to people who fill find a tarsier in the future, Dr. Guia Muring stressed that there is no need for humans to capture the tarsiers, unless if it is ascertained to be weak and needs veterinary care.

As of press time, there are already three known tarsiers that were released in Tagum Botanical Park. While a love triangle is in the offing, may they propagate and may they live happily ever after. (Louie Lapat/CIO Tagum)

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