Attempt to Helping Tarsier Conservation

One of Bohol’s tourist attractions is visiting tarsier in its natural habitat. Though it’s my 6th time in Bohol, we’ve frequented that one in Loboc. And quite frankly, I wasn’t happy at all seeing this endangered specie removed from its natural habitat, altered its natural behavior and held captive in a cage. This does not actually help in the conservation measures of Tarsiers.

So this Easter, when P said he wanted to see the famed smallest primate, I proposed to go to Tarsier Sanctuary, in Corella. It’s a natural environment abounding with trees and bushes protected and managed by Tarsier Foundation. Their doors are open from 9AM to 4PM. They showed us an hour video first on how they carry-out their protection/ conservation program and taught us how to be a responsible Sanctuary guest. (Hop here for heaps of information).

We went inside the Sanctuary with 4 more people on a guided tour (they try to keep a very small group per guide). The tour guide alone can interact with the tarsier, it being territorial, solitary and extremely sensitive to noise, we were showed where the tarsiers are resting / sleeping. That day we were told they found 4 Maomag (tarsiers’ local name) among 88 others (if I remember it correctly). P and I respected their habitat and hardly spoke during the visit except for the occasional whispered woows and amazement =) He took only few photos as he was just happy to see how tiny they are, how enormous their eyes are compared to their body and how their tails are really long relative to their height. We even witnessed one that leaped from one branch to another and how it used its tail to balance itself after the jump. It was waaaay too cute =)
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We would have stayed longer and just ogle to the little creatures but since it’s just the 1st leg of our motobiking day, we took off and left the Sanctuary moved and with the understanding how we can help to keep it from extinction.

We were heading to our last stop of the day, Chocolate Hills Complex, right after the arch that welcomes all Carmen town visitors, P suddenly stopped and spoke to a woman carrying a green net with her. I sped past thru them until I realized P wasn’t following so I went back to see what was he up to on the side street.

Voila! The woman he was talking to was selling him a live tarsier captured in her tiny net basket. He was so perplexed to see that this woman was selling the tarsier on broad daylight, on the street, without a trace of shame on her face at measly Php 500. So he was talking to the woman that it’s illegal to sell it, and was telling her to return it to the wild. The woman even had the nerve to say that they didn’t steal it and that her son caught it in the forest to be taken care of by its buyer. He thought of buying it so he can return it to the wild but we talked about it that we don’t want to be caught by the authorities with it on our way to the wild and that we don’t want to patronize such practice. So we told her we will be back and immediately left the woman. We went straight to the foot of Chocolate Hill Observation Deck and reported what we saw to the men at the Barangay Outpost. We said the woman is just on the street about 500-800m away with the Tarsier. But to our surprise the men told us that it was a normal practice there to sell it and they added there was no harm done to us. Disappointed and frustrated, we went up the hill and saw a Tourist Police Outpost and narrated again what we saw downhill. Relieved to finally have somebody understood our concern and this the man in uniform took his bike right away and called one of his colleagues and went straight to where we said the woman is.

We really hoped, they’d be able to catch her and teach her that selling Tarsier is strictly prohibited. However, after we climbed up the 200+ steps to the Observation Deck, we were advised by the police officers that they didn’t find the woman anymore. Their efforts were futile as the woman maybe was able to sell it already or maybe she realized we will be reporting her to the Policemen and hid somewhere already.

Before we hopped on our motobikes again, we can’t relinquish the thought that maybe we should have dealt with it differently. We should have let the woman go with us on our motorbike and brought her to the Police Station to report her right away. Maybe just maybe, we’re able to save one tarsier right there and then.

I saw how disappointed he was specially, knowing that this illegal practice can go on right below the town residents’ very nose. We both agreed next time we would be more vigilant and more decisive.

How about you? Would you have done it differently? How can you help in Tarsier’s conservation? I don’t know about you, but one thing for sure, there’s Tarsier Foundation who began a good work somewhere in the small town of Corella, Bohol.

Tarsier Sanctuary is only 28.6 km Northeast from Alona Beach, and 14km Northeast of Tagbilaran City.

Sanctuary’s entrance fee is P50/hd that is used to help fund conservation advocacy of the Foundation.

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