Philippine Tarsier

The cute and big-eyed Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) is one of the smallest primates in the world. The species live in the southeast part of the country. These nocturnal creatures can be found mostly in Samar, Bohol, Leyte and in Mindanao. The tarsier is often called the world’s smallest monkey, but the animal is actually not a monkey. There is some confusion regarding the classification of the tarsier. The species is said to have originated 45 million years ago, making it one of the oldest that currently exists in the Philippines.

The tarsier is very small; it measures about four to six inches in height. Male tarsiers have an average mass of 134 grams while female tarsiers are around 117 grams. An adult tarsier can fit easily in a human hand. Aside from the size, another noticeable part of the tarsier is their eyes. They are naturally not in proportion to their head and body, and they are even bigger than its brain. As listed in the Guinness Book of Records, the tarsier holds the record of having the largest eyes among all mammals. The large eyes equip the tarsier with excellent night vision.

The Philippine tarsier is covered with thick, silky fur, usually in gray or brown. It has a thin, almost hairless tail which the animal uses for balance. It has an elongated ankle bone called tarsus, which gives the primate its name. It allows the tarsier to jump from one tree to another without having to land on ground.

These primates live in the forests. According to research, the tarsiers prefer secondary forests with low-level vegetation. They are carnivorous, and they often prey on insects, spiders, small vertebrates and small crustaceans.

Tarsiers are shy creatures which usually hide during daytime. They sleep on hollow spaces near the ground, usually inside dense trees and shrubs in the forests. They become active at night to hunt for food and to mate. The mating season for tarsiers begins in April and ends in May. These solitary creatures are very sensitive to noise and lights and this is why people who visit the tarsiers in eco parks are always advised not to shout or take pictures of the animals. The slightest noise or flash of light can already stress a tarsier, which is bad for its health.

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