Home | INQ7money | Jobmarket | YOU | Roadtrip
Today is , Philippines
iYellowpagesCommunity Innovations
SECTIONS
Home
News
OFW Spotlight
Features
Philippine Explorer
Property Focus
Cebu Daily News
Remittance Center
Snapshots
Main Events
Showbiz
Sports
Audio/Video
Comics
 
COLUMNS
Manila Moods
Connections
Looking Back
Pinoy Kasi
Moments
Here and There
Kris-Crossing Mindanao
Global Networking
 
SERVICES
Browse and Win
OFW Resources
INQ7 Alert
Marketplace
Promo Winners
Announcements
 
INTERACT
Registration
Mailbag
Forums
Downloads
 
ABOUT US
About Global Nation
Submissions
 
 
 
 
 
Home Philippine Explorer

Furry mascot of RP forest
lives on borrowed time

By Agence France-Presse

 




CORELLA, Bohol--A tiny, furry tree-climber with the owl-like eyes pricked its ears and swiveled its head as a rustle on the forest floor ended its midday slumber. Carlito Pizarras, son of a taxidermist, had sneaked up so close he could smell the tarsier on its shady perch. The midget mammal has been around since the Eocene Age, but 45 million years of evolution were hardly of any help against Bohol Island's most famous game hunter.

Fortunately, Pizarras had given up his air gun, formaldehyde and the other awful tools of his trade some time in the 1970s and devoted the rest of his life to trying to save the exotic mascot of the Philippines' receding tropical forests.

"I began to notice that I had to hike deeper into the forest to find one, unlike in the 1960s when you could snatch them (off) tree branches by the side of the road," the 50-year-old told Agence France-Presse at a tarsier reservation here.
The tarsier is found only in four islands in the central and southern Philippines and on several islands of nearby Indonesia.

Incorrectly regarded by Filipinos as the world's smallest "monkey," it is really a cousin of the lemur and the tree shrew.
An adult male with gray or reddish fur grows to about 130 grams (0.29 pounds), about the size of a human fist, and with its long, naked tail for balance it jumps like a frog across low-hanging tree branches at night. It eats about a 10th of its weight in moths, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and beetles.

Left in the wild, tarsiers can live up to 15 years.

Although technically it is not yet a part of the country's endangered species list, the government believes without human intervention it could disappear in a few years.

Hunting and trading in Tarsius syrichta, the species found in the Philippines, was banned in the mid-1990s, when Pizarras flew to Manila with two orphaned tarsier babies to meet Prince Charles, who was in the country, and enlisted the heir to the British throne's support to help save the species.

Scarce government funding however leaves the preservation effort primarily in the hands of the private sector.

The Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc., organized by local businessmen on Bohol, an island of 1.2 million people, runs an 8.4-hectare (20.7-acre) forest reservation, a sort of Noah's ark where Pizarras and two other forest rangers live near about 100 tarsiers.

Besides the human hunters, feral cats banished from nearby communities are the main predators, though some large birds are known to fancy them too.

Pizarras said the wardens had shot about 20 stray cats, which tried to climb over the wire mesh fence.

The reservation is nestled within a larger protected forest where about a thousand other tarsiers are believed to live, temporarily reprieved with a permanent logging ban.

But the tarsiers pretty much have to fend for themselves on the larger Mindanao, Samar and Leyte Islands.

Pizarras started hunting tarsiers when he was 12. He became so adept at the task that he hunted by scent. He says the animals gave off a musk through glands located on their breasts, though most visitors at the reservation were clueless.

"We shot them out of the trees with air rifles," Pizarras said. "My team easily caught about 100 a month." Stuffed tarsiers went for as little as 300 pesos (about five dollars).

For those who preferred live pets, catching them alive was a relatively straightforward undertaking. Like June beetles, "We shook the trees until they fell."

When tarsiers became scarce on Bohol, Pizarras began a captive breeding program so he could raise animals he would stuff. He sent 10 live tarsiers bred this way to the Chicago Zoo in the United States in 1985.

In the wild, the territorial males attract four or five females who mate only during the full moon after a week of courtship. Each gives birth to a single young after a six-month pregnancy. The young tarsiers are pretty much on their own after six months.

Raising tarsiers as pets is a cruel sport, said Pizarras, who insists the stressed-out animals actually commit suicide or otherwise will themselves to die inside their cages.

"They would smash their head on the bars in a bid to escape until they crack their skulls," he said. He also insists the animal had the capacity to simply stop breathing, a more debatable proposition.

At the reservation, researchers fitting temporary radio collars helped establish the animals' breeding and eating habits as well as their territorial ranges.

With the environment department playing an oversight role, the tarsier foundation has asked other Bohol towns with tarsier populations to donate 20 hectares (49.4 acres) of forestland for conservation.

"We plan to expand the program to Mindanao, Leyte, and Samar," Pizarras said.



Other Stories


Furry mascot of RP forest lives on borrowed time

RP attracting interest of foreign travel firms



Archive


 

ADVERTISING | SYNDICATION | LINK POLICY | USER AGREEMENT | PRIVACY POLICY

SECTIONS: News | OFW Spotlight | Features | Philippine Explorer | Property Focus
| Cebu Daily News | Remittance Center | Snapshots | Main Events
Showbiz | Sports | Audio/Video | Comics

COLUMNS: Manila Moods | Connections | Looking Back
Pinoy Kasi | Moments | Here & There | Kris-Crossing Mindanao

SERVICES: Browse and Win | OFW Resources | INQ7 Alert
Marketplace | Promo Winners | Announcements

INTERACT: Registration | Mailbag | Forums | Downloads

ABOUT US: About Global Nation | Submissions

copyright © 2004 www.inq7.net all rights reserved

 
INQ7.net