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.
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.
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.
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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