The nocturnal Philippines Tarsier is a rare primate that is not more than four inches tall. But conservationists fear, the animal is being threatened in its natural habitat because of more and more tourists eager to get as close as possible to this species shy of humans.
Tourism is becoming a growing threat to the rare primate of Philippines known as the Tarsier. The animal is nocturnal, does not like bright light, noise or human contact. In fact when faced with humans the animal feel so stressed they repeatedly knock their heads on tree trunks which leads to their death.
According to conservationist Carlito Pizarras,
“People go near and they’re loud, or make a picture with the flash, or they’re touching them. Most of those tarsiers, when they become stressed they commit suicide.”
“They don’t breathe and slowly die. If you put them in a cage they want to go out. That’s why they bump their heads on the cage, and it will crack because the cranium is so thin.”
In 1997 the Phillipenes government declared the mammal as ‘specially protected’ species but their numbers have continued to dwindle. Currently only a few hundred of the primates are left in the wild mostly in the 413 acres of forest around the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary on the island of Bohol.
Ironically, the problems have risen for the species in these forests with the growing tourist flow who wish to see the enigmatic creature.
Joannie Mary Cabillo, the programme manager at the Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary said, ‘The tarsier is a superstar but unfortunately it’s suffering because of its fame. The government is backing up but not that much. We have a presidential proclamation and laws to protect the tarsiers but unfortunately nobody is sanctioned.’
Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) feels tourism is like a double edged sword for the tarsier.
‘We can still do more through education and stricter enforcement,’ she says. ‘There has to be stricter monitoring, also for tourists.’