Saturday, January 15

Bohol tarsiers in captivity

TARSIER   genus:  Tarsius; phylum:  Chordata; order:  Primates; species:  T. syrichta 

Above mentioned facts, I got from Wikipedia.  Illustration below, mine.

My interest in tarsiers is not really, by any means, scientific and if someone asks what genus do tarsiers belong, I would have no idea. I only know that these cute and shy animals are a great tourist attraction and because of that, I think their existence is nearing end.  Here's why:

A scenario:

A tourist bus with 10 to 15 Koreans take the Tagbilaran - Baclayon - Loboc - Carmen - Danao route. I mentioned these towns as they are where the bus drivers usually make stops. Baclayon is where you will see the oldest church of the Phillipines. Loboc is where the floating restaurants are. Carmen, the Chocolate Hills and Danao, the ziplines, the plunge, caves, wall and root climbing. You might ask why I am telling you this.  What does the Maumag (local name of tarsier) got to do with it? Well, each of these stops have tarsiers IN CAGES.

Tourists are sightseeing during the day and tarsiers which are nocturnal, sleep at daytime.  So? Well, tourists don't want to see tarsiers sleeping behind the leaves. Afterall, they are paying for it...although you'll see signs on a box that says Donation for the upkeep of those hapless tarsiers, still they are indeed paying.  It's been told that a donation box could easily earn ten thousand pesos a day during peak season.  That's more than the monthly salary of a rank and file employee. So what happens is that, to make the tourist happy and not to feel short-changed, the operator wakes them up. The tarsiers have get out from their sleeping quarters (behind the leaves) so tourists can marvel on their cuteness and take photos. Some would poke them with long sticks or shake the branches hard if they refuse to come out from their hiding places.

Sure, they are allowed to get back to sleep after the tourists are gone but not for long.  The last time I was in one of those places, there was a long queue of tourist buses so I doubt it if those hapless tarsiers did get any sleep at all.

Being nocturnals, this predicament these tarsiers are in,  greatly disorients them and without sleep, they will surely get sick and eventually die. And if they do, the operators buy another set.  Set? Yes, set.  Tarsiers don't live long if caged alone. So with this trend of buying tarsiers>burying dead tarsiers >buying a set again (I am sure of this) >burying and so on, there's no doubt about it:  extinction is inevitable. 

There's a man named Carlito "Lito" Pizarras of Philippine Tarsier Foundation, aka, the Tarsier Man who is very active in taking care of these hapless creatures. He had been ridiculed as a fool for tarsier but now has become a national figure.  Nobody knows about tarsiers more than Lito. 

I met Lito 2 years ago at the foundation. Not that he knows me back but to someone who loves tarsiers knows a thing or two about him.  A soft-spoken man.  I saw him whisper softly to one of his tarsiers and this tarsier looked at him and snuggled at his neck. It was a very touching moment. No wonder his wards (tarsiers) love him so.  But what can a single dedicated man do to stop this massive abuse on tarsiers?

In desparation, I once uttered this question after a discussion about the plight of the tarsiers. Maybe we can clone him, one of my friends jokingly answered.

Tarsier Found on Several Islands in Southeast Asia Eating a Gecko Artists Photographic Poster Print by Larry Burrows, 30x40Tarsiers: Past, Present, and FutureTarsiers (Nocturnal Animals)



Missy said...

This is so sad...

sally said...

Missy, you're absolutely right. It is so sad.