Did you know that the smallest primate inspired the iconic Star Wars character "Yoda"? The tarsier is a fascinating creature that has sparked creativity and awe worldwide. Unfortunately, this poor critter that looks part bat, squirrel and frog is an endangered species that needs the help of places like the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary to save it. We visited this sanctuary and got the inside scoop on all things tarsier while getting up close and personal with them in their natural habitat!
One island that is on every backpacker's Philippine travel list is Bohol Island. This is the tenth largest island in the Philippines. It features the famous Chocolate Hills, fabulous beaches and interesting history. But the main draw of the island is seeing the unique and mostly endemic animal: the tarsier.
There are other places to witness this special primate but the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary is the most ethical as its focus is the safety of the tarsiers. This sanctuary is tucked away in the jungles of Bohol. Here is their visitor information:
Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary Information:
Hours: Sun - Sat 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Entrance Fee: P150/person (about $3 USD)
Address: Tarsier Sanctuary Rd, Corella, Bohol, Philippines
Signage that requests your silence greets you as you make your way to the entry. Only the sound of chickens clucking near their welcome office and soft bird chirps can be heard at the sanctuary. We found out the very sad reason for this when we interviewed the staff after our tour.
We made sure to visit the tarsier sanctuary in the afternoon. We heard that it's busiest in the morning hours, which decreases your chances of spotting a tarsier. This plan proved successful as we were able to see many tarsiers! The late afternoon hours also give you a greater chance of seeing a tarsier with their eyes open. They are nocturnal, which means they are most active at night and mostly sleep in the day.
Our tour guide Mary Ann quietly guided us through the brush. She helped us spot many tarsiers in the trees. One tip I have for your visit to the sanctuary is to bring a camera with a wide zoom range. We were lucky to have a Canon DSLR with an amazing zoom! This allowed us to capture videos and images we wouldn't have been able to get with a cell phone camera. Also, the sanctuary doesn't allow flash or flash noises, so a professional camera is best.
After we gazed at the darling sleepy eyes, the strangely frog-like fingers, and the expressive triangular ears of the tarsiers, we interviewed our tour guide and learned so much from her about the smallest primate in the world! See the full interview in the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary Movie.
Here are five Tarsier facts we learned from Mary Ann.
1. Tarsiers are not monkeys. Tarsiers are one of the oldest surviving primate groups. They were here before humans and monkeys - that's why they look so weird!
2. Tarsiers are the smallest primate in the world. Babies are the size of a human thumb and an adult can fit into the palm of your hand! Their weight ranges from only 85 to 165 grams!
3. Tarsiers are carnivorous. Tarsiers are the only primate that eats LIVE animals! They eat mostly insects but also eat small lizards and birds.
4. Tarsiers can only have one baby a year. During mating season, the female tarsiers chase the boys (how rare! LOL). Then the females are pregnant for six months and care for their young for another six months.
5. Tarsiers commit suicide when they are stressed ☹️ Tarsiers are very sensitive to noise. When their stress levels are too high, they bump their heads on trees and take their lives. This is the sad reason why silence is mandatory at the sanctuary. Any place that doesn't enforce this (or allows visitors to get too close to tarsiers) does not have their best interests at heart.
We were surprised when we learned all the many cute and sad things about this species. Another sad fact is that this species is endangered and has only a 20% survival chance within the next 20 years if we don't help save it. One way to help is to support the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, which directly funds the sanctuary as well as other education and preservation efforts. Find the foundation's donation information and website below.
Philippine Tarsier Foundation Information:
Donate to the sanctuary and the foundation via PayPal
Paypal Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you love to see this otherworldly tiny critter? Comment on this blog post or on the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary YouTube video with your thoughts on this species.