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.