What has the tail of a rat, legs of a frog, sticky fingers of a gecko, rotating head of an owl, ears of a bat and the face of the baby? No, this is not a character in some Sci-Fi or horror movies – you will find a primate which fits the above description in Philippines – The Tarsier. See the picture below to see if you can pick up some of the description mentioned above.
The Philippine Tarsier, Tarsius syrichta, is found only in the central Philippines. It is sometimes known as the world’s smallest monkey but it is neither a monkey or even the smallest primate. Being a primate, it is part of the group of mammals that includes lemurs, monkeys, gorillas and man. The tarsier falls somewhere between the lemurs and monkeys on the evolutionary scale. Tarsiers are certainly small – an adult Tarsier can easily fit in the palm of a person’s hand. Whatever it is scientifically classified as, the Tarsier certainly looks cute and unique! We had the opportunity to check out a few of these Tarsiers at the Philippine Tariser and Wildlife Sanctuary at Corella during our trip to Bohol island on a day trip from Cebu.
To protect the Tarsier, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation was founded in 1996. It had acquired a Tarsier sanctuary of about 167 hectares in the municipalities of Corella and Sikatuna in Bohol where tourists can see the Tarsier in its natural habitat.
It is quite hard to spot a Tarsier in the wild as it is a shy nocturnal animal and sleeps at daytime near the trunks of trees and shrubs deep in the bushes and forests. They only become active at night – with their better sight and ability to maneuver around trees, they are very able to avoid noisy humans before they are detected. Their diet consists mostly of insects such as cockroaches and crickets. Charcoal has been mistakenly thought to be what Tarsiers like to eat but in fact they lick from charcoal mainly to eat salts.
After paying the P50 (Philippines Pesos) entrance fee to the Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary, you will be led to a fenced off (to keep away other animals e.g. cats which could attack the Tarsiers) area of the sanctuary where there are well marked paths and volunteers/staff posted at places where you can likely see a Tarsier. There are about 10 Tarsiers in the sanctuary – don’t worry about having to do a “Spot a Tarsier” game as all locations where a Tarsier had been spotted by a staff, had been clearly marked with a red flag.
You can take pictures of the Tarsiers but no flash photography is allowed as camera flashes will scare these creatures. Also visitors are not allowed to clap or make loud noises to get the Tarsier’s attention. A staff is always on site at the trees marked with a red flag to ensure that visitors don’t disturb the Tarsiers. The staff can also assist to take pictures of you with the Tarsiers so just ask nicely – of course, the camera angle should be reasonable since most of the Tarsiers are resting quite high up in the trees. The whole Tarsier experience will take about 30 minutes and you can check out a video about the Tarsiers for more information at the sanctuary. As you will be walking in the wild, expect uneven surfaces (there are some steps to climb) and insects, mosquitoes (insect repellant is recommended).
The Tarsier sanctuary allows the Tarsiers to move freely in the wild and monitors their health. Tarsiers generally do not do well in captivity. A Tarsier’s life expectancy could be shortened significantly to just 2 years – 12 years if they are kept in cages (Tarsiers living in the wild can live for around 24 years). While under captivity, these Tarsiers can develop sore eyes due to poor diet and bright lighting (causing permanent damage to their eyes). Tarsiers tend to commit suicide while in captivity as they will feel very nervous and stressed when they are touched and repeatedly exposed to camera flashes and restricted in their movements (while in a cage). The Tarsiers will commit suicide by hitting its head against trees, cages or anything hard and this action kills it almost instantly as they have a thin skull.
There are places around Bohol which keep the Tarsiers in cages or semi-captive (allowing them to feed at night within limited spaces) especially those Tarsier shops along the Loboc River or at Chocolate Hills and at other popular tourist spots around Bohol island. Avoid these places as the Tarsiers here live quite miserable lives and don’t survive very long due to long term exposure to stressful conditions.
Visit the Tarsier sanctuary at Corella, Bohol instead – here you will contribute to the conservation of these unique Tarsiers. Also you can get your own “Tarsiers” in the form of souvenirs e.g. magnets, key chains at reasonable prices at the sanctuary gift shops. There is a wide selection so you will be spoilt for choices!
Getting to Tarsier Foundation – Philippine Tarsier & Wildlife Sanctuary
The Tarsier Foundation – Philippine Tarsier & Wildlife Sanctuary is open from 9am to 4pm daily. Don’t be late as the sanctuary is very strict on these closing timings (to protect the animals from being disturbed). Entrance fee to the sanctuary is P50 (Philippines Pesos).
Address of the Tarsier Sanctuary is 14 Canapnapan, Corella, Bohol 6300, Philippines
Telephone (landline): +63 (0) 912 516 3375
Telephone (mobile): +63 (0) 918 602 1326
The sanctuary can be reached by public transport. Ask public tricycle to take you to Island City Mall Dao Jeepney and Bus terminal from anywhere in Tagbilaran City (about P30 (Philippines Pesos)). At the bus terminal, look for the bus/jeepney ((about P15 (Philippines Pesos)) for Sikatuna via Corella, as this route will drop you right at the Philippine Tarsier Foundation Sanctuary in Corella. Some jeepney will drop you off at a distance from the sanctuary (just off the highway) – about 15-minute walk. Also expect some wait at the bus terminal as the jeepney will also depart when it is filled – factor these waiting time when you plan your trip to avoid arriving too late.
Alternatively, rent a motorbike at about P400 a day / motorela (tricycle) at about P800 a day or engage one of the many tour companies in Bohol for a day tour around the island – typically includes the Chocolate Hills, Corella Tarsier Sanctuary, Lunch River Cruise at Loboc.
If you are coming to Bohol for a day trip to Cebu, we recommend staying at Plantation Bay Resort & Spa (Marigondon, Mactan Island at Cebu, Philippines 6015). For general inquiries and reservations for individual travelers, please contact
[email protected] with the Email Subject: Room inquiry
- 50 Philippine Pesos Entrance Fee