Tuesday, January 28

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)


Tuesday, January 7

What not to do when planting broccoli

Just this morning, I read a book about gardening. The centennial edition of Yate's Garden Guide, although very informative, some of its guidelines just won't work (for me) being an Australian book made for Australian climate. And I'm here in Bohol, Philippines. Still, I find myself reading parts and pages and looking at photos of broccoli, big ripe tomatoes, crisp-looking lettuce and of  beautiful flower and herb gardens. And I do it again and again for inspiration that at times I forget that I'm here in the tropics. One time, I asked a friend working in Canada to send me (as a gift!) a pack of broccoli seeds. She sent me two! At the back of the packets, it says early dwarf variety, big and compact bright green heads. I sowed one packet. They sprouted but just a few made it. But there was enough for the 18- meter plot.

They grew just like the previous broccoli I had, only taller and slimmer. So much for a dwarf variety! And instead of forming into heads, the flowerets spread out. For a moment, I was wondering what went wrong and whether or not it tastes different. Not really different as I found out later. I mean, you'd know what you're eating is broccoli.

So I didn’t ask my friend for broccoli seeds again or any other seed for that matter. And the other packet of Canadian broccoli? I didn't throw it either. The picture on it looks too gorgeous. I just let it peacefully expire inside a plastic box. At least I learned a very important lesson: never assume that the big difference in climate, soil and temperature between here and places like Canada won't matter because it does. And it could cost you a planting season.