Bohol’s Tiniest Treasure – The Tarsier

Our first glimpse of the island of Bohol’s most famous residents came during naptime.  Most of the Gizmo-like creatures shut their trademark marble eyes, others curiously peeked at onlookers. One tarsier looked as though he was smiling as he dreamt. The tarsiers’ delicate fingers – a hybrid between those of a frog and human – gently clung to tree branches.

Tarsiers are among the world’s smallest primates; their eyes are 150 times larger than a human’s, when one considers their diminutive body size. The little nocturnal creatures grow to just over 6 inches (160 millimeters) tall and could easily fit in the palm of one’s hand. Yet visitors who come to see them in the Philippines, Borneo or Indonesia should refrain from touching or holding them, for they are endangered animals. In fact, today it is thankfully illegal for tarsiers to be caged. Their bones are said to be so delicate and small that they can easily break.

The tarsier sanctuary we visited forbade flash photography, the touching of tarsiers and loud noises. The little guys appeared to roam the wooded sanctuary independently and sanctuary guides pointed them out to visitors as they slept. Despite these restrictions, we still questioned if the tarsiers receive adequate sleep.

Amazingly, the petite primates can leap branch to branch — up to 16 feet (about five meters) and they are almost able to turn their heads 360 degrees! Their primate group is estimated to be 45 million years old.

If/when you visit Bohol, be sure to visit the below organization, which is reputed to have the tarsiers’ best interests in mind. We had asked our taxi driver to take us to the Tarsier Foundation Sanctuary noted below, however, since we did not see the educational exhibitions at the sanctuary our driver took us to, we suspect that he took us to a more commercially-minded sanctuary (conveniently located for him on the tourist trail en route to the Chocolate Hills) instead.

Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc. » The Tarsier Sanctuary.

22 thoughts on “Bohol’s Tiniest Treasure – The Tarsier

  1. Oh my gosh, I’m so glad I found this post! I used to LOVE tarsiers when I was a kid, and I had almost forgotten about them. Now I like this even more because I have a WordPress photography website, so these photos are truly touching towards me. Thanks for this post.

    1. Hello Aaron – glad the images of the little tarsiers allowed you to journey in a sentimental fashion. :) WordPress is such a fun way to meet up with others passionate about travel & photography! Looking forward to seeing more of your work…

    1. My pleasure, Jessie. It’s heartbreaking to hear how these little guys are sometimes mistreated. Sometimes I don’t think people stop to think how their actions can harm them. How’d you become familiar with the tarsiers? I must admit that I hadn’t heard much about them prior to coming to the Philippines. That’s the joy of travel, though – learning about the world!

      1. I have a farm in the southern part of the Philippines, Tricia. The farm is 3 hours drive from Davao City and is close to a protected landscape which is also home to tarsiers. Compared to Bohol, where tarsier awareness has been somehow raised to higher levels, the effort to preserve the tarsier and its habitat in this area is at a very young stage. I’m trying to help and we’re trying to get more support. So if you are aware of organizations or individuals who can help, it will be truly appreciated. Regards.

      2. Sounds like a beautiful area, Jessie! How special to have the little tarsiers in your backyard, so to speak. :)

        I’m not aware of any individuals who can help, but perhaps the organization link on this blog entry could be a good start. Good luck — such noble aims you have!

    1. Seeing the tarsiers was a definite highlight of our Bohol Island adventures, as well as our time in the Philippines – they are so precious. It’s refreshing to know that there are efforts on the island to protect them — hope the trend will continue so that generations to come will be able to appreciate them.

      Thank you, Tania, for your comment!

    1. Agreed! The natural beauty on the Philippine islands is just extraordinary! We really enjoyed the ride out to the Chocolate Hills, as well as our snorkeling experience on Balicasag Island (not far from Panglao).

      Did you snorkel while in Bohol? The underwater creatures and the reef were just extraordinary! My first time. :)

      1. Yes, I snorkeled in Balicasag. After visiting Chocolate Hills we went to Panglao. I haven’t posted it yet because I’ve busy. I love the underwater! I actually think I belong to the sea like a mermaid. Haha!

        Did you visit Palawan? You’d love snorkeling there as well. Plus, Underground River is one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. ;)

      2. That’s cute – a mermaid in training! :)

        We didn’t have enough time to make it to Palawan, but heard it’s gorgeous. The friends we met while traveling in Banaue were headed there. Perhaps the next time we’re in the Philippines we’ll have a chance to explore the Underground River!

  2. Great photos. Those guys are so adorable! I had never heard of them before! Love their eyes – they really just draw you in – they look so innocent and fragile. Hard to imagine them leaping across branches.

    1. Hi Sarah, meeting the tarsiers was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Such lucky little guys they are to live on such a paradisal island!

      Hope you’re having super travels – how much longer will you be in Cambodia?

  3. Cute pictures of tarsiers you have here. ‘reminded me of my visit in Bohol. I will be back here soon to tour my friend. I just hope that they were not affected much by the Earthquake that happened last year.

    1. Stunninglyschoonhead, glad you enjoyed the images of these photogenic fellows. :) As we saw the headlines about the earthquake, we too wondered about the people with whom we crossed paths on Bohol. Here’s hoping more tranquil times are ahead! How long ago did you visit Bohol?

      1. I’ve been there July 2012, so everything was still perfect and beautiful. I really hope they could rebuild the beauty of the place. Those people are nice. Cheers to more happy travels Tricia! :)

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