Meet the Endangered Tarsiers of Bohol, The Philippines

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ January 25th, 2010. Updated on September 22nd, 2014. Published in: Travel blog » Discover World Culture » Philippines.
Sunlight shining on a Tarsier in Bohol (click to enlarge)

Sunlight shining on a Tarsier in Bohol (click to enlarge)

Photographs of  the endangered Tarsiers in Bohol, The Philippines

There are some animals in the world I really like. I knew the Tarsier was one of them even before I got to see one in person.

Wide eyed Tarsier in Bohol

Wide eyed Tarsier in Bohol

What is a tarsier?

According to Wikipedia they are haplorrhine primates, according to my guide-book they are not primates. I believe there is a debate going on about it amongst the scientific community.

They are nocturnal creatures that are endangered. In Bohol there are a number of stores in the town with caged Tarsiers. I met a lot of tourists who only went to see them there for close up shots. I found it incredible to listen to them go on about environmental protection, and then go and do a thing like that. I did not.

Instead, I went to the sanctuary on a Sunday and spent a whole afternoon walking back to a main junction trying to get back to my cottage. Transport around Bohol is indeed an issue.

Curious tarsier looks a photographer up and down

Curious Tarsier looks a photographer up and down

Where to find Tarsiers in The Philippines?

I would have preferred to have spent the day in the company of these incredible creatures instead. The center in Bohol itself was small, but clean and well-kept. It seemed to be held together by one man and his son. It also seemed to be in the midst of being closed down. Lost in a sea of bureaucracy.

For the Tarsiers alone I am glad I came to Bohol, if not the Philippines.

UNESCO can shove their world heritage proposed site, the Chocolate Hills, up Sabang’s dark tunnel of alleged world corporate profit-making wonders of the word, and start helping out the Tarsier protection system that is in dire need of organized help.

Oh wait, they don’t list animals as heritage. WWF are you still around?

Bohol, is not a place to live for me

I arrived back at my cottage by nightfall. I was right to not to spend longer in Bohol, my living on an island series was chosen well in Palawan. Bohol has all the makings of a great place to visit, and indeed rain aside has a lot to see.

But I found the tourist offerings all talk and no action. See this, do that. But, we’re not going to help you get there easily if you’re not on a package.

Sleepy Tarsier in Bohol

Sleepy Tarsier in Bohol

Granted it’s not hard to do it independently. But really, and honestly, it could be made a lot better. Sign posts, transport links and information not geared towards tour groups or package tours would really help.

Then again, maybe it’s the package tourist that they are looking for?

Environment and tourism problems on Bohol island

Not to my amazement, on leaving Bohol, I found out a whole lot more … New resorts are getting ready to be set up. Chinese tourists are on the way. The block house resorts and being constructed. Karaoke boat cruises on a river lit up with an underground lighting system are already well established. And, ear grindingly awful I might add.

The potential is there for Bohol. I went caving, and for a trek as well. It was really nice. But again I see Bohol selling out to overseas investors at the price of the Tarsier and its individual extinction.

Yes, that is my point here.

The Tarsier’s endangerment is left behind in the rush for tourist profit

As the debate continues on how to “class” the Tarsiers, they will soon be gone I fear. I hope that I am wrong. But I don’t see anything happening otherwise. A man tried about 10 years ago, but it seems little support has left things floundering.

Hopefully someone out there will think of something other than profiting from tourism; and help the incredibly beautiful, timid and amazing Tarsiers before it really is too late.

Are tarsiers endangered?


If you are just reading this article for the first time, please read the comments below before reading the update here. It will give you a better idea of the time line, and events :)

As regular readers of my journal here know; I don’t often get involved in the internal workings of a place I am traveling. It’s not my place to do so. But for every rule there is an exception. Due to comments here and the emails I received in regards to the plight of the Tarsier in Bohol I took some time out to follow-up on some requests.

Step one in trying to help the tarsier species

Firstly I emailed WWF HQ (world wildlife fund) requesting information about their involvement with the Tarsier in Bohol. I got an automated ticket reply.

Then 24 hours later got a badly laid out email that also looked quite automated. In it I was given a link to the old-looking Philippine WWF website, and generic information about the Tarsier. None of which I requested.

Not only that, but there were more spam looking links included requesting donations, purchases of WWF material than I would normally get in any normal spam email.

Using social networking to help the Tarsier

Not so happy I did the following. I used twitter to send WWF a message. I then emailed WWF Bohol’s office and WWF Philippines HQ. At the same time a kind reader of this website also emailed me and said they would contact WWF from their end as well.

About a week later I am pleased to say that a representative of WWF Philippines replied with a very detailed email regarding the Tarsier and WWF’s situation in The Philippines.

Quotes from the WWF’s reply about the tarsier in The Philippines

I believe in email confidentiality and will not publish the entire email here. However I did write back and request if I could quote from the email. My request was granted and here is the outline of the situation:

“With such a broad presence, WWF necessarily concentrates on one or two fields per country. WWF-Malaysia for example, has extensive terrestrial and forest-centric expertise to protect Borneo – home to the oldest rain-forests on Earth.”

This is quite true, as I’ve been reading about their work in Borneo. I had no idea that WWF only concentrates on one or two fields per country. Maybe they need to make this more publicly known?

“WWF-Philippines has extensive expertise in marine conservation – ranging from whale shark research to oil spill prevention to Crown-of-Thorns Starfish collection. Bohol is one of our former project sites. The project, which aimed to positively transform coastal communities and management practices through CRM (Coastal Resources Management), has reached completion and is now unfunded. If funding appears, we will be back to continue our work.  “

So this clarifies the areas that WWF have been actively involved in The Philippines. Rather unfortunately it also tells us the reason why this project is no longer running. No funding. However, again rather unfortunately it also confirms to us that the Tarsier does not fall into this category.

“we currently cannot protect Bohol’s Tarsiers because:

1. There is no operational WWF-Philippines office in Bohol.
2. WWF-Philippines sticks to the Pareto Principle by concentrating on the protection of marine resources.”

The tarsier’s bleak future in The Philippines

So that’s the bottom line. The Tarsier is not under any WWF program in The Philippines, and does not seem likely to be in the immediate future. And, the current programs do not have any funding.

This is perhaps not the answer we were hoping for. However I do understand WWF’s position. It’s not possible to protect every animal, endangered or not, on Earth. With limited funding nearly every organization must prioritize. Unfortunately in this case, the Tarsier looses.

WWF did mention that if there was a generous donor out there that might be able to help the program in The Philippines they should contact them.  However, personally I would like to point out that this would seem to be directed at their marine conservation program and not the Tarsier.

How can you help the Philippine Tarsier?

So what can be done about the Tarsier. The Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc is the only organisation that seems to be involved, that I can find, that’s somewhat active in trying to protect the Tarsier. The website really needs to be updated. I did visit the center before writing this post.

There was a man and his son running it. I am presuming it was not the owner of the organization. The place was clean, well-kept, and they only asked for a small donation in a box.

But, it did seem pretty obvious that funding was needed for its continuation, and I have continuously heard rumors of it closing. I would think some personal research would be needed before directly donating.

What you can do to help the Tarsier if you go to Bohol

In conclusion it’s not the update I, nor many others, would have enjoyed to read. However, I do hope that this has highlighted the Tarsier’s plight in The Philippines. From small starts come great things. Maybe, just maybe, someone out there will come across this article and have a solution.

At the most minimum I hope travellers and readers who come across this will note, and understand the following if they plan to visit Bohol in the Philippines.

Do not visit any stores, shops or businesses in Bohol that have Tarsiers on display.

It’s not their natural habitat, and they don’t live for very long this way.

Report these business and people to the authorities straight away. There is an Ordinance in the Philippines that makes displaying Tarsiers in this manner illegal. “The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol passed Ordinance 015-2008 prohibiting the possession and display of tarsiers in the towns Loay and Loboc, Bohol” – reference from wikipedia

Again, unfortunately this law only applies to Loay, and Loboc. But it’s a start. It might also give you some indication to the bureaucracy in The Philippines in relation to why they did not just outlaw Tarsier possession nationwide.

Personally if I saw any caged Tariser in Bohol, I would contact the authorities to inform them. Law’s change, and if it means there’s a potential to protect this endangered animal then that must surely be a good thing.

The Philippines tourist office:

If you go there, complain. Tell them your feelings. Preferably in writing. They are not the best but at least it’s something. Or even spend 10 minutes when you get home sending the WWF an email, or again, The Philippine tourist board.

Small steps in helping the Tarsier:

Finally, I would like to thank everyone that took the time here to comment and email about their concerns. It only takes one person to make a difference, maybe it happened here. Moreover than that, rather than just concentrate on my journey to find home, we’ve picked up on something else.

The future of the Tarsier remains under threat, and unknown.

But thanks to everyone here, maybe a few more people have a little more knowledge about the situation. And, that might just be the spark that’s needed to help the Tarsiers bright light continue!

— Save the Philippine Tarsier update 2  (2010) —

In the late summer of 2010 WWF launched a fundraising campaign within The Philippines to help support projects like this.

It’s not an immediate answer, nor solutions, but it’s great start.

Secondly I’ve had several emails from tourists visiting Bohol, and many are now reporting that they have not seen any caged Tarsiers in the stores around Bohol. Again, a welcome piece of news.

If you have visited Bohol recently feel free to comment below with your feedback!

As proven here, every little thing helps! Including raising awareness about the Tarsier!

— Save the Endangered Philippine Tarsier update 3 (2012) —

I just got informed that a Filipino family recently visited Bohol and found the Tariser sanctuary to be very informative. No one was allowed to touch the Tarsiers and  educational material was available.

The best bit of news was that through information like this article the children of this family were able to educate their own father who did not know much about the Tarsier. This is quite rare in The Philippines which often has a strong elders are always right and should not be questioned mentality.

By continuing to educate people on the endangered Tarsier and how to protect its environment this little creature may stand a chance at survival.

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Coming Soon:

Mindanao – the southern island in the news for violence, kidnappings and beheadings … guess where I am trying to live now …?

<strong>-Anil-</strong> Well, personally … it wasn’t something I wanted to digest! But it is popular for a reason!

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21 Great responses to Meet the Endangered Tarsiers of Bohol, The Philippines

  1. keira says:

    I adore Tarsiers. When I was a kid I had a picture of one taped to the inside of my journal for years. I had no idea they were endangered!

    • -keira- Good to see you again! Yes you just can’t help but adore these guys. Let’s hope there’s something that can help them out there.

      -Nomadic Chick- Unfortunately, from what I can see, there’s been little update on his work over the past few years. Other than an on the ground presence. So I am reluctant to pass on any details, as I don’t like to suggest an NGO or private organization that i cannot vouch for myself. If there’s enough interest in this, I can look into it further, as really I do feel for the Tarsier.

      Conflicted about Bohol, not so much. I made the right choice in not trying to live there for sure. My concern is that the type of developer the island is bringing in is the type that come crashing through without much concern for long term tourism infrastructure, sustainable environmental protection and local cultural awareness. Unfortunately money from these big developers talks, and some times the wrong people listen.

  2. Does this man take donations? If so, perhaps you can post that info?

    You seem conflicted about Bohol. On one hand, getting around is a hassle, on the other, you seem unsupportive of overseas investors sweeping in. I personally dislike developers, the large scale ones anyway. All they see are money and most of it doesn’t end up with the local people. Those are my 2 cents. :)

  3. Bethany says:

    What cute little guys! I love these creatures. Is this the place you visited?:

    It seems that some organizations are trying to help but yes without funding it will be difficult. WWF is definitely still around and it turns out they are trying to help the Tarsiers as well through their conservation efforts in the kinabatangan area.

    • -Bethany- Yes it was the The Tarsier Foundation . And, yes funding is always an issue, however it could be helped if the whole situation was not embroiled in bureaucratic strife, or so I am told.

      Likewise with the WWF. I had a look at their program in the Philippines, it’s not so well updated on their website. Adopt a Tariser, sure, but it doesn’t specify for what country and how the funding is used. Yes I saw the Kinabatandan page, but that’s Borneo. Again, the Philippines section is practically devoid of recent activity.

      I’ve sent them an email, to find out if they are indeed running any program to support the Tarsier in the Philippines, and how. Let’s see if they respond …

      In the mean time, that you for posting those links, hopefully anyone reading them might be able to help, find information, or at least learn about the Tarsier.

  4. Trudy says:

    Are they related to marmosets? They seem to be. I hope you find out about a program to help them. Our world will be an increasingly poor environment without all our disappearing species.

    • -Trudy- I don’t think they are related to Marmosets, though yes there is a visual similarity.

      Here’s a full list from

      that mentions programs that were set up to help the Tarsier. As you can see most have not been updated for 10 years by the looks of things. Which is one of my points.

      Yes the world is losing out due to disappearing species. What’s worse is watching it happen in person.

      I have sent the WWF an email, received an auto response stating someone will be in touch. Let’s see …

  5. Bethany says:

    I would def. be curious to see what WWF comes back with.

    • -Bethany- I’ll comment back here when/if they do

      -jessiev- Yes there are serious problems with development in the world today. And hard to find a solution.

      -Ivy- Thanks Ivy, it’s much appreciated. If WWF are not involved, then no problem; its their choice. But if they are, I think there are people here interested in knowing what and how they are involved with the Tarsiers in the Philippines.

  6. jessiev says:

    very cool – what unique animals! i hope to see them someday. development is rarely done well, isn’t it? ugh.

  7. Ivy says:

    Lovely little creatures. I’ll see what i can do for them as a volunteer of the WWF (Europe). But it’s not easy.

  8. Connie T. says:

    Their big eyes are cute, such a cute animal. Nice photos too.
    I think I will check back to see more of your pictures.
    Have a great day.

    • -Connie T.- Yes they are one of cutest animals I’ve seem. Thanks for the kind words, & hope to see you again too.

      -Wade | Wade, good to hear from you again. Yes I do get very tired of seeing UNESCO sites that have been over-exploited as tourist draws. Rather than let them fall, I’d rather see the ample money they have to prevent this from happening. Education centers rather them souvenir stalls if you catch my drift.

  9. Dave,

    Your take on UNESCO is right on. Each place on the list becomes a tourist circus. If heritage is what they wish to preserve then they should let places fall to the ground.

    It is my impression that heritage is deeper than piles of old stones. The buildings may stand but the heritage is gentrified out.


  10. I’ve received a reply from WWF. In lieu of that, I’ve posted an extensive update at the bottom of the article.

  11. CC says:

    I was just in Bohol, and did not see any caged tarsiers in the stores. Maybe you had an effect, or maybe I just didn’t go into enough stores.
    Yes, transportation and signage is a big issue. They were asking a lot for day tours, but we paid a small amount to rent a bike and see it ourselves. (My partner has a license and speaks Cebuano)However, without my GPS and its map of the Philippines (available for free online although in beta) we would have never found the Tarsier sanctuary or the chocolate hills, for lack of signs. The GPS map (which also can be installed on your computer) is what saved me my last trip there, even for finding places in Davao city!

    • I hope there has been a change in the local stores not housing caged Tarsiers. Shame the tourism dept does not work harder in this important island. Then again, I think they leave a lot of it up to the local admins. Probably why nothing is happening …

  12. LeslieTravel says:

    This is the cutest animal I have ever seen! I hope the conservation efforts work, so I can visit it when I eventually get to the Philippines. You may not have completely solved this issue, but congrats for compelling the WWF to explain its inaction and for motivating your readers to get involved.

  13. animallover_00 says:

    hi i am doing a essay on endangerd animals and if the government is doing a lot to help them or should they be doing more. i came across your blog and thot that you might be abell to help me out. i would like to know your opinione on the tarsier and other animals do you think they are getting the help they need from the government? you dont have to reply if you dont want too. :)
    oh and sorry for the bad spelling:p

  14. Ivy says:

    yes, the only way to save endangered species is to educate humans to be human.